What the Heck is Jicama?! A How-To Post

Have you ever seen this guy hanging out at your local grocery store and wondered who the heck he thought he was? I honestly passed him by every visit for years without a second thought. Jicama? How do you even pronounce that? Gee-comma? Jik-uh-ma? It wasn’t until I decided to make this gee-comma/jik-uh-ma/I-give-up salad a little while back that I paid it any mind in the supermarket. I bought this jicama not knowing anything about it. I hacked up this jicama not knowing anything about how I was supposed to do it. I served this jicama in a salad not knowing anything about what it should or should not taste like.

I was immediately sold.

At its worst, jicama (by the way, it’s really pronounced “hick-uh-muh,” much to my surprise) is a little watery and bland. It adds a nice crunch but not much else. At its best, though, it’s crisp and juicy with a mild sweetness reminiscent of a pear or apple flavor. It’s very unique, with a completely unexpected flavor based on its appearance alone – a true case of deceptive looks. L and I both really enjoyed it in that original salad, so when I saw that Rachael Ray had her own recipe for a jicama salad, I thought it would be a nice summer side dish.

The second time around, I did my research. There were only 2 at the store and they were absolutely massive – this thing cost me a whopping $6! – so I didn’t need much knowledge in choosing the “best of the bunch.” Where I did need help was in the cutting department. When I first did it, I was intimidated. I went at it with a knife and enthusiasm enough to scare a small child. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. It took forever. The slices were all misshapen. I knew there had to be a better way.

This post is not about the really tasty jicama salad that I made – that will come on Thursday as part of, you guessed it, Thirty Minute Thursdays. But I know that jicama is not your average orange or broccoli stalk – a lot of people probably don’t know what to do with it, and it’s a shame because it’s such a cool little (ok, rather large) piece of produce. Don’t be intimidated. Cutting it is totally manageable. It may take you some time – with it being just my second time, I had to devote a solid half hour to fully slice down the monster of a jicama I bought – but it’s not difficult. You can do it, and I’m going to show you how.

How to Cut a Jicama
Once you master this technique, you’ll want to buy jicamas left and right! They’re perfect in salads, as a slaw, even placed in a wrap! They add fantastic texture and a mild flavor that pairs well with many different types of cuisine.

Yield: 1 chopped jicama (many servings)
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minute

The “Ingredients”
1 jicama of your choosing
Cutting board
Potato peeler, optional
Your best large kitchen knife, preferably a good chef's or large serrated

The Method

Wash your jicama and dry it well. Take your large chef’s knife and slice off both ends of the jicama to expose the flesh. With either a potato peeler or your knife (I preferred the latter), peel the entire jicama so that the creamy white flesh shows all over. Remove any bruised or questionable sections.

Halve the jicama. Take a small slice off the bottom of each half so that it balances flat on the cutting board. With the flat side down, working one half at a time, make thin slices no thicker than ⅛ inch through the jicama. Repeat with the second half. 

Take each slice (you may work with several at a time) and slice into thin matchsticks. Cut those matchsticks in half or into thirds for slices, or cube depending on your preference or what the recipe calls for (the one we’ll be looking at on Thursday calls for matchsticks).

And that’s it! See, it’s easy as pie. Nothing to be scared of. All you need is a jicama, a good knife, and a little bit of patience. Now go out there, buy yourself a jicama, and I’ll see you in just a few days with a recipe for a great Mexican-inspired jicama salad!

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