Give jicama a try this Cinco de Mayo


On Saturday all across the United States, Americans will load up their tacos and down pitchers of margaritas to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

In Mexico, May 5 remains a rather minor holiday except in the town of Puebla, where in 1862 local troops defeated the much-more-powerful army of Napoleon III. Bolstered by this victory and with some help from its northern neighbor, France finally withdrew from the country in 1867.

Minor or major, any holiday which involves food should be celebrated.

A lot of Mexican food culture has made its way north. Enchilada and burrito now have a permanent place in our lexicon. With a half-dozen Mexican restaurants, York has moved far beyond Taco Bell. That being said, there is still a lot to be discovered about Mexican cuisine.

Today I’d like to present the jicama (HEE-kah-mah). Native to Mexico and South America, jicamas are crunchy, nutrient rich tubers with a faintly sweet taste. Think of a cross between a water chestnut and an apple. Although they can be cooked, jicamas are usually eaten raw in some type of salad.

Unlike shiny bright red apples, jicamas are not beauties. You might walk right by them in the supermarket and never give them a second glance. Once peeled and tasted, though, you will be quickly won over. Unlike apples, they never brown and always retain their crispness.

Jicamas are a powerhouse of nutrients. They are low in calories and high in a special type of fiber that promotes bone health by enhancing calcium absorption from other foods. They also have a very low glycemic index, so they are a perfect food for diabetics.

If you are looking for a green salad alternative, make friends with the unassuming tuber from south of the border. Jicama salad has everything that makes a salad great — a refreshing combination of flavor, texture and color.

Jicama Salad

1 jicama, peeled and cut into julienne strips (see note below)

1 red bell pepper, cut into julienne strips

2 mangos, peeled and thinly sliced

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

zest of one lime

dash of salt

For the dressing

1/4 cup lime juice

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup olive oil

Combine the vegetables in a large bowl. Add a dash of salt, and toss to combine. Whisk the lime juice and sugar. Then whisk in the olive oil. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well. Serve chilled.

Note: The produce manager at the Giant Food informed me that they sell packaged julienned jicama.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at