In an older post, I casually mentioned jicama, but did not explained what it is. The reason was that it would have taken the attention away from the main subject (pico de gallo, the fruit salad), but also because I did not find any at the store back then. For the last couple of weeks, I have seen them at the supermarket, so I finally got around to buy one and now I can talk about it in more detail. The word jicama comes from the Nahuatl xīcamatl – watery root, which is a very accurate description. On the outside, it looks like an overgrown turnip (see photo), but inside, it is white and very juicy. The best way to enjoy it is raw, although it works great in stir-fries, for example, taking the place of water chestnuts.
After thoroughly scrubbing and rinsing the jicama, I patted it dry with a clean kitchen towel. That removed any soil residue and also made it less slippery. I used a cutting board and a very sharp chef’s knife to slice the top and bottom ends off; some of the peel got pulled with the ends, but I still had to use the knife to lift sections of the peel, starting at one end, and then I pulled them down to the other end.
I removed a couple of blemishes with the knife, as well. Now I have a nice round and white root. Turning the jicama on its side again, I started by slicing discs.
From there, I could choose from many ways to create appealing (pun not intended) presentations, Mexican style: discs, by themselves or with other fruit in large pieces or whole (shown with a mango); sticks to serve as part of a cup of fruta picada (“chopped fruit”, also in sticks, such as watermelon, cantaloupe and even cucumber), or cubes in fruit salad (also in a cup as shown below, or in the recipe mentioned above.) All these variations may be sprinkled with hot pepper powder (Tajín™, piquín, even cayenne), salt and lime juice. In Mexico, instead of bake sales at schools, they used to have fresh fruit sales, with halved oranges, jicama discs, and mangoes on-a-stick. Big shakers of hot pepper powder and salt, and lime halves, were available on the side (if this won’t do for today’s kids, see Easter bonus at the bottom of the post.)
Easter bonus with extra kid appeal: A spring scene of jicama chicks and skewer, with watermelon flowers and paper bunnies and chick. Forget the hot pepper powder and offer a dip of plain yogurt mixed with jam (or pureed frozen berries; I used black currants.) The chicks’ eyes are sprinkles. I used cookie cutters for the jicama chicks, and watermelon flowers; other shapes may be used (for example, chicks and dinosaurs are relatives, so the substitution would be perfectly acceptable.)