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Jicama (pronounced Hee-kah-ma) may also be referred to as a Mexican turnip. Native to Latin America, this vegetable is the root of a plant that produces seeds or “beans.” However, these beans are not for eating. Other than the flesh of the jicama, the stems, leaves and seeds are toxic, which naturally wards off hungry insects. Peel the thick, brown skin with a sharp knife to get to the white flesh inside, which is safe to consume!

Jicama has a potato-like flesh that is best described as a savory apple. Many Central Americans will eat this taproot raw, seasoned with lime juice and chili powder. With it’s unique crunch, jicama can be used as a substitute for water chestnuts, and it makes an excellent addition to a veggie tray. Try it cooked, as well, and use it in soups, stews or stir-fries.

You may find jicama year round in most supermarkets and specialty markets, including Mexican, Latin American and Asian markets. Most jicamas will range from three to five pounds, and though some will grow much larger, smaller jicamas are preferred for most dishes. Refrigerate unpeeled jicama in a tightly closed plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to two or three weeks. Once peeled, store jicama up to one week. Unlike an apple or potato, a jicama will not brown once cut. Jicama is good for gut health, as it’s packed with inulin, a prebiotic that feeds probiotics, or the good bacteria, in our gut. Jicama is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of dietary fiber. Try it today!

Jicama and Black Bean Dip

1 small jicama, peeled and chopped (about ½ cup)

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup frozen corn, thawed

½ medium green or red bell pepper, seeded and chopped (about ½ cup)

½ medium onion, diced (about ½ cup)

⅓ cup light Italian dressing

Salt and black pepper

Optional: 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro

In large bowl, combine jicama, beans, corn, pepper, onion, and dressing. If desired, add cilantro. Stir to coat all vegetables with dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate several hours for flavors to blend.

Yield: 10 servings, ½ cup each

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 70 calories, 1 gram fat, 160 milligrams sodium, 12 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 3 grams protein

Source: Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

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Smith is nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension, McLean County. Contact her at 309-663-8306. 

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