Musical pairing – Englishman in New York by Sting

Alien Encounters: Jicama – There’s no doubt about it: Jicamaย (HIH-kih-muh) can be quite intimidating. The large, brownish root, derived, Mark Bittman informs me, from a poisonous Central American vine, is very possibly as large as my head and devilishly tricky to peel. Not to mention the fact that the jicama will probably always be directly connected in my mind with the mysterious and slightly alien.

I remember ten or so years ago when my family had a monthly share in a local farm. It would be an undeniable thrill every month when we got our box full of fruits and vegetables and joyous wildflowers: the brimming cardboard stuffed with strawberries or raspberries, carrots or tomatoes, seemed like a monthly Christmas present (and, even better, an edible one!). But one month, we opened the box to find inside bulbous brown over-grown turnips…or something like that. Quickly enough we learned that the mysterious root was a jicama, and I recall my parents feverishly looking up recipes, attempting to learn what on earth they could do with this thing. Perhaps they never found anything, because when I went to the store this afternoon looking for a jicama, I still felt like I was hunting down some unknown quantity– I couldn’t even picture a jicama, much less think of how it tasted.

Don’t let the strangeness of the jicama frighten you. Don’t be discouraged by the toughness of its peel. Don’t let the comforting “may substitute cucumber for jicama” of the recipe dissuade you. This root is one worth digging up and exploring. It’s got a flavor I’ve never found anywhere else, and is a crucial ingredient in a recipe from Vegetarian Times’ Farmers’ Market Cookbook–blackberry, jicama, and apple salad–that is so fresh and beautiful that I’m not sure I’ll ever want to eat another kind of salad in the summer ever again. Even more refreshingly, the recipe is flexible and easy. Not having arugula on hand, I substituted baby spinach, and I’m sure raspberries or blueberries would be lovely in place of the blackberries. But humor me: don’t substitute that jicama!


Avery Olund-Smith is going into her sophomore year at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, where’s she’s studying English. She’s from Cincinnati, Ohio, where she attended the School for Creative and Performing Arts. She loves biking to Findlay Market and writing with the Cincinnati organization Women Writing for (a) Change, and considers food, writing, reading, and the beauties of both the city and the natural world amongst her passions.


  1. So I had every intention of trying jicama but when I went to my local grocery store it didn’t look the way I thought it should look. It had white/flaky spots all around, some blackish stuff on the bottom, and all over there was this sticky substance that looked like maple syrup to me. Is that normal? I thought I should find out before I buy them. Many thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

    • nope Lindsay, that is not how a jicama should look; no white/flaky spots, no black spots, no blackish stuff on the bottom or sticky anywhere else for that matter. a fresh jicama will be firm to the touch w/no black spots – a few blemishes are permissible, ie, those that are slight and can be cut away w/o losing too much of the jicama. if you can’t find jicama, you can substitute turnips – similar in taste, they are a bit softer w/a little less crunch, but still good. good luck and thanks for the question!

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  3. I’ve only used jicama once, but you’ve inspired me to try it again. I love this salad with the blackberries!

  4. I never knew that it came from a poisonous vine! I love it’s crispy crunchiness.

  5. Debra – what a gorgeous summer salad highlighting jicama – jicama reminds me of water chestnuts, crunchy and refreshing! Sounds wonderful with juicy blackberries and the tangy sweet dressing.

  6. Looks so refreshing. I may have to break down and try the jicama.

  7. This salad sounds wonderful. LOVE the combination of ingredients!

  8. Oh how I love the refreshing, crunchy deliciousness that is jicama! And it is always so perfect in this kind of salad. Now I have a serious craving for some!

  9. Perfection in a delicious light and refreshing summer salad!

  10. I am so straved right now, but on any given day, I would die for this fresh salad. Besides I don’t cook with Jicama and it’s about time that I do. Thanks for the inspiration!!

  11. I have no idea why jicama is so dang intimidating. I love it but never seem to purchase it. Perhaps you have changed my mind with this lovely salad.

  12. I didn’t even know jicama existed! Now I want to run out and try it. Lovely photos too!

  13. Aaaah, yes – jicama. It seems like a bad idea… until you taste it and then it makes perfect sense. Such a wonderfully crisp, cool taste and fabulous with spicy mexican food! Love the flavours in your salad ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. I adore jicama, so this sounds like a fantastic combination to me!

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