“Uhh, what’s Jicama?” was Allen’s response the first time I told him we were going to have Jicama (pronounced HEE-kah-mah) in a salad. Jicama is a globe-shaped root vegetable with a light brown, papery skin, and white interior. I have heard it described as a cross between an apple and a carrot, or a pear and potato, or even water chestnut and apple. I think it always tastes slightly sweet, but sometimes apple-like and other times, pear-like—probably depends on the soil where it has been grown. But Jicama always has a refreshing, light crunch. Not as dense as water chestnut or potato, though.
Jicama is low in calories, high in fiber. It contains many important vitamins and minerals including Vitamins C and E, potassium, and magnesium. Jicama also contains antioxidants and beta-carotene.
Even before we knew about the health benefits, Allen and I decided we really liked it, and this recipe highlights it in a flavorsome and satisfying salad. I usually use only half of a jicama per salad, but the other half is great as a dipper for hummus, spinach dip, or simply sprinkled with citrus juice (lime is traditional, but any citrus would work), chili powder and a little sea salt for a spicy snack. You can also combine it with mango, pineapple, and papaya to add some crunch to a tropical fruit salad.
The skin of a jicama is easy to peel, like a potato. Just slice off each end for some stability, then use a sharp knife or peeler to take off the papery skin. But, like the leaves, the skin is also poisonous, so don’t give it to your dog as a snack/scrap of fiber. I wouldn’t put it in the compost pile, either.
I decided to toast some pumpkin seeds to toss in the salad, since this is the season for pumpkins. No, I did not emulate Martha Stewart, and purchase a pumpkin to scrape out seeds. I simply bought some from the local grocery store. Of course, if pumpkin-carving is on your to-do list, you can certainly scoop out the seeds, separate them from the strands, rinse and toast them.
Dry roasting pumpkin seeds in a fry pan over medium heat is probably the best way to toast them. Sprinkle in enough to fill the pan in a single layer. If you end up with too many for the salad, toasted pumpkin seeds are a great snack by themselves. Stay right next to the stove, though, and keep stirring until they start to brown. This will only take a couple of minutes, and you will smell the wonderful aroma as they brown. When they look good, scrape the seeds onto a paper towel to start cooling immediately. If you let them cool in the pan, they may burn.
Allen was a champion orange peeler. He was always meticulous and careful to get all of the pith off of the oranges before serving them to the kids or me. But I am not that patient. So I cut oranges in half and slice off the rind, trying to get as much of the bitter pith as possible without taking off too much orange.
Since I had some fresh kale from my daughter’s garden, I decided to use it for this salad. Kale is great for a make ahead salad because you can dress it hours ahead of time, and the greens will soften but not get soggy. I combined the kale and jicama, tossed it together with the dressing in the morning. Then I arranged the previously prepped seeds, oranges, apples (sprinkled with lime or orange juice) on top, along with the freshly cut avocado just before serving.
This salad is pretty when all mixed together, too, so you could toss everything together in the morning instead of waiting to arrange it later. The citrus in the dressing will help keep the apple from browning. I would still wait until the last minute before adding the avocado, though, so it doesn’t get mushy.
Here are some additional ideas for that leftover half of jicama:
- Combine half a cup of sour cream, preferably reduced fat with the zest and juice of a lime, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon onion salt and pinch of pepper. Use as a dip.
- Combine reduced fat mayonnaise and plain yogurt with ready-made pesto for a different dip.
- Add jicama to your favorite coleslaw for additional crunch and flavor.
- Add jicama sticks to a crudité platter when serving guacamole or onion dip.
- Toss it into any salad, especially if there is citrus in the dressing.
AUTUMN SALAD WITH JICAMA
- 3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
- 2 large navel oranges
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Juice from half an orange; about 2 tablespoons
- Zest from half a lime; about 1/2 teaspoon grated zest
- Juice from half a lime; about 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2-3 teaspoons agave
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large bunch lacinato kale (about 6 cups), washed, stemmed and torn into bite size pieces
- 1/2 jicama, peeled and cut into bite size sticks
- 1 red apple, diced
- 1 ripe avocado, diced
Toast pumpkin seeds in sauté pan over medium heat, stirring continually, until browned and fragrant. Cool on a paper towel and set aside. Cut one orange in half, and juice it to get about 2 tablespoons fresh juice. Peel the rest of the oranges and cut into rounds or sections. Set orange pieces aside.
Place kale in a large bowl with jicama, oranges, apple, and toss with dressing. Add fresh avocado just prior to serving and sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds.