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Other Names: Mexican potato, Mexican water chestnut, Mexican yam bean, potato bean, yam bean root.

General Description: Jicama (Pachyrhizus erosus) is a tropical legume that produces an edible, light brown, round, fleshy taproot. Native to Central America, this cousin of the sweet potato is widely cultivated there and in Southeast Asia. The underground tuber comes in two types: agua (watery juice) and leche (milky juice). Jicamas range in weight from a few ounces to 6 pounds, with the most common weighing about half a pound. The jicama’s crisp white flesh is hidden under a fibrous dust-brown skin, which must be completely stripped off. Jicama is also called a Mexican potato because it is a root vegetable with a potato-like texture when cooked. Raw jicama is very crunchy, with an apple-like, nutty flavor reminiscent of fresh water chestnut.

Season: Most jicamas on the market are imported from Mexico and South America and are available year-round.

Purchase: Look for well-formed plump tubers. Choose medium-sized jicamas with smooth, unblemished skins. Scratch the skin; it should be thin and the creamy flesh should be juicy.

Avoid: Avoid shriveled or sticky jicamas with cracks or bruises.

Storage: Store in a cool, dry place, uncovered, for up to 3 weeks. Too much moisture will cause mold. If mold develops, cut it away. Refrigerate after cutting, wrapped in plastic, for up to 1 week.

Preparation: Remove the skin and the fibrous flesh directly under the skin using a knife or vegetable peeler.

Serving Suggestions: Cut into squares and add to fruit salad. Sauté with carrots or green beans. Stir-fry with chicken or shrimp. Simmer in savory stews as if it were a potato. • Serve cut sticks of jicama with a squeeze of lime and a shake of fiery chili powder, as is done in Yucatán and other places.

Flavor Affinities: Chili powder, cilantro, ginger, grilled fish, lemon, lime, oranges, red onion, salsa, sesame oil, soy sauce.

from Quirk Books: