Care of Lisa Pitman
April is a challenging month in Toronto, not as difficult as February mind you, but there is a tangible anticipation in the air that we will soon be able to enjoy fresh, local produce. However, our seasonal markets don’t open until the end of May or beginning of June. So, what do you eat while you patiently wait for the warmer weather to nurture our fields full of fabulous local food? Why not discover a new ingredient that you might pass over when farm fresh produce is readily available?
One ingredient you might consider is jicama (pronounced hee-ka-ma). Over the last month I have been amazed by the number of people who have not experienced the unique flavour and texture of jicama. It is a globe-shaped, root vegetable cultivated in Mexico. Jicama has a brown, parchment-like skin and white flesh. The texture of jicama is incredibly crisp and refreshing, somewhat similar to an apple or water chestnut. In Mexico, slices of jicama are often enjoyed raw, topped with lime juice and a sprinkle of chili powder.
While jicama is not going to join the ever-growing roster of superfoods, it does have a unique nutrient profile that makes it a great addition to your diet in the spring when you start to crave lighter fare. It is low in calories (about 50 per cup), high in vitamin C, water-soluble B vitamins and fibre (6 g per cup). Jicama’s fibre profile contains inulin which has been linked to improved calcium absorption and the retention of bone mass.
The recipe below pairs jicama with two nutrient-dense foods: watercress and avocado. Both have been celebrated for their health-promoting properties. Jicama is primed to absorb flavours and provides the perfect crisp texture for this interesting salad. It would be a great dish to brighten up a brunch this spring.