Hee-ka-ma, as the globular shaped article is weirdly pronounced, is a root vegetable resembling a cross between turnip and sweet potato.
Its use extended as far back as the 3rd millennium in the modern day country called Peru — a state in Latin America known for its plentiful adventure areas, culture and diverse food preparations.
Jicama is speculated to have originated from Latin America, specifically Mexico and Central America.
But enough of the unsought details of the jicama root. I know one question running through your head is whether or not the tuber can be eaten raw?
Here’s the fact of the matter,
Jicama can be eaten raw when the brown papery back is peeled off and the flesh is sliced into thin strips or diced. Jicama root has a texture that resembles that of a raw white potato or pear, which means that the interior or flesh is crisp, and the taste is generally under the umbrella of slightly sweet and nutty, although some jicama root, especially the larger ones are somewhat bland in flavor.
As a matter of fact, jicama has been and will always be consumed in its raw state by a significant population of people living in the Americas, particularly Latin America.
The roots are shredded or cut into strips and sprinkled with lemon juice and drizzled with a sauce beaming with chili pepper from where they are enjoyed raw as they are.
That’s how street food vendors prepare jicama raw in some parts of the Americas
Below we’ll find out the nutritional content of the jicama root and various health benefits that it brings to the table when eaten raw or cooked.
After that, we’ll shed light on the various ways available for preparing jicama root and what the scientific position is regarding the consumption of other parts of the jicama plant.
In the end. You’ll also learn how to store jicama root whether cooked, raw and sliced or whole root.
How nutritious is raw Jicama?
Raw Jicama packs a punch in nutrition. It is rich in nutrients and minerals and also serves as a good source of dietary fiber.
- 40 percent DV Vitamin C (at 24.2 mg)
- 5 percent DV Potassium (at 180 mg)
- 4 percent DV Magnesium (at 14.4 mg)
- 4 percent DV folate (at 14.4 mcg).
- 24 percent DV dietary fiber (at 5.9 g)
- 4 percent DV total carbohydrate (at 10.6 g)
*DV = Daily Value
Other nutrients include
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
- Pantothenic Acid
In reference to the data from above, I’m going to be very honest, I know it doesn’t form a clear representation of how powerful the jicama root is, it doesn’t portray anything other than mere figures and percentages, so because of that, let us take a look at the various health benefits of the jicama roots as backed by reliable scientific studies and research.
- Jicama can boost the frequency of bowel movement in people with constipation.
- Eating Jicama root can promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut which can prevent many chronic illnesses like kidney disease and obesity.
- Jicama root contains compounds that can help prevent colon cancer
- Jicama can help stool move out smoothly from the intestinal tract.
- Jicama is a perfect recipe to add to your weight loss regimen because, despite packing a punch in nutrition, it still has very little calories within. It also promotes the feeling of satiation through a compound known as inulin.
- Jicama can help reduce the levels of bad LDL cholesterol and also total cholesterol which then is subsequently beneficial to the overall health of the heart.
- Jicama contains water which can help one achieve their daily fluid requirements.
These are just a few out of the numerous potential benefits of eating raw jicama. If you’re interested in knowing more about the health benefits of jicama, read this guide: “8 Health and Nutrition Benefits Of Jicama” which was published by the Healthline Magazine.
Is there a difference in nutrient between raw and cooked Jicama?
Noticeable differences exist in the nutrient profile of both raw and cooked jicama.
When raw, jicama root contains vitamin C in percentages content close to nearly half the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) at 40 %.
After cooking, especially boiling, or using methods that require submerging the root in non-nutritious water, there is a significant reduction in the percentage of Vitamin C from 40 to only about 7 — because most of the Vitamin C content is leached out into the liquid base.
Additionally, some minerals and compounds such as pantothenic acid, folate and vitamin A to mention but a few, are also lost or reduced.
So the takeaway is that subjecting jicama root to any form of heating will actually reduce the nutrient content to some degree, depending in the method of cooking you’re employing, however, depending on what you pair up the root with afterwards, this may not be a problem, for example pairing up boiled jicama roots with sauces, cream or meat will invariably shoot up the nutritional value of the meal sometimes even to more than what a raw jicama can ever offer.
So in the end, everything depends on your choice of pairing.
How to eat Jicama
There are different ways to enjoy jicama roots raw. But the first step to enjoying any jicama root starts with one constant step always, and that’s peeling off the skin.
The skin of the jicama root contains a natural pesticide called rotenone which is toxic when ingested, so ensure to peel off the skin no matter how vigorously you wash it under running water.
After peeling off the skin and removing some of the lingering fibers on the jicama flesh, slice it into thin strips, dice into cubes or cut into wedges and enjoy as they are.
You can spice up the mix by drizzling lemon juice over the cuts and sprinkling chilli powder over them, or incorporating them as part of a crudités.
Another way you can use raw jicama cuts is to add them to a vegetable salad or fruit salad.
Don’t worry, unlike apples or pineapples, jicama slices wont turn brown after a while, and even when you store them in the refrigerator for a while.
You can fry and saute jicama too. Typically, because jicama roots are very crispy, some people like to soften them up by boiling them in water for about 10 minutes first (in their cut state— strips of cubes), then baking in the oven for about 10 minutes at 400F or 7 minutes in the Air fryer before finally adding oil to a skillet and frying the jicama cuts until they turn very crisp and browned.
Prior to baking you want to season as you like with herbs and rub oil all over the jicama cuts.
There are many other variations for making jicama fries, for example, one that sauteed them directly without boiling and baking in hot oil and seasoning.
You can find more of these techniques when you search for recipes online.
You can treat jicama like a potato and cook it using water only, or a nice veggie broth. Now depending on the size of the jicama, you may choose to boil it with the skin or peel off the skin first before boiling.
I prefer you take off the skin to eliminate the chances of getting food poisoning.
Another exciting way to eat jicama is to bake it. Many different techniques exist on how to bake jicama using different ingredients.
With a quick search, you can discover them all. Just note that in order to preserve the apple-like crispness of the root, you must bake for only a brief period of time.
Add to soup to make it hearty. You can also add them to rice or meat preparations, you know, like you normally make grilled fish with potatoes.
As a substitute
Substitute jicama in recipes that call for potatoes or water chestnut.
Because of their resemblance in texture, they make for a perfect substitute for these veggies. So, you get mashed jicama instead of mashed potatoes!
Consuming other parts of the Jicama Plant
While the jicama flesh is perfectly fine to consume, even raw, other parts of the plant like leaves, seeds and blue or white flowers are not recommended to be eaten for fear of poisoning.
The seeds are scientifically known to contain a natural isoflavone compound called rotenone which has insecticidal properties to prevent the leaves and pods of the plant from being attacked by pests.
This compound has been shown to be toxic to humans and some aquatic animals like fishes because of its ability to generate free radicals which can damage DNA and other components found in the cells of every living organism.
Now the compound isn’t only confined to the seed pods. The stems, flowers and even the light brown skin of the root also contain rotenone which can be poisonous when ingested.
How to store Jicama
When storing whole jicama roots, ensure they’re of optimal quality.
Avoid roots that are discolored, botched, cracked and moldy and opt for firm, fresh and thick skinned tubers.
Store tham at temperatures between 55 to 59 °F. They’ll keep for upto 4 months! If you opt to put them in the refrigerator, beware that the lifespan will be shortened to only three weeks after which they will begin to spoil as a result of chilling injury.
For cut jicama roots, wrap with a plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for upto one week.
Jicama root is perfectly safe to consume raw without any health implications. People of Latin America have done so for decades upon decades and have developed many quick recipes to make eating raw jicama exciting.
Among them include slicing and eating jicama as it is, or sprinkling lemon juice over the slices and topping with a spicy chilli powder to be consumed as a snack!
When eating raw jicama isn’t your thing, you can always bake, roast, fry and even boil it to serve as an accompaniment for meat or dips.