Yes, the thick, papery skin of a jicama must be peeled, but do not use a vegetable peeler to do it! A chef's knife will provide far superior (and safer) outcomes. To make a flat surface on either end of the jicama, cut a small slice from the top and bottom. Then cut the jicama in half lengthwise, brush away any loose fibers, and slice as desired.
Jicamas are root vegetables related to potatoes that grow in clusters of up to 100 seeds each. They have a crisp texture and mild flavor that is similar to turnips. Although jicamas can be eaten raw, they are usually cooked like potatoes or carrots. Like other root vegetables, jicamas contain vitamins C and K, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. They also contain folate, riboflavin, and niacin. The cluster shape of the plant makes harvesting easy. Simply pull up the entire plant when its time to harvest.
Jicamas are used in salads, sandwiches, and desserts. Because of their mild taste and crunchy texture, they work well with more flavorful ingredients such as avocado, chili, garlic, lime, and onion.
Jicama has been grown for centuries in Central America and Mexico for food and medicine.
Peel the jicama with a vegetable peeler before halving it from top to bottom (a serrated knife works best). Jicama halves should be sliced 1/2 inch thick, then flattened and cut into 1/2-inch-thick sticks. Jicama halves should be sliced into 1/8-inch thick slices, then laid flat and cut into 1/8-inch thick sticks. Use as a replacement for potatoes in fritters or salads.
Jicama is very nutritious. It's loaded with fiber and has less sugar than many fruits. It also has more potassium than bananas and more vitamin C than oranges. The white flesh of the jicama contains over 70% water content making it easy to overeat. That said, the brown skin contains almost no calories so there's no reason not to enjoy both!
Cutting jicama can be difficult because of its shape. The ideal tool for cutting jicama is a mandoline. This hand-held device allows you to slice thin strips off the bulbous root while keeping the rest of the jicama intact. You can also use a sharp knife in a careful, straight line to slice the jicama paper-thin.
Jicama has a crisp texture that tastes slightly sweet when cooked. It goes well with spicy flavors such as chili powder, cayenne pepper, and garlic. For an unusual but delicious treat, try serving jicama with sorbets or ice cream.
To prepare jicama before cooking, use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin, then a sharp knife to chop the white meat into cubes or strips. There's no need to be concerned about oxidation because jicama does not darken or become mushy after being chopped. However, it will develop a grayish color from its starch if you leave it on the plant too long.
Jicama is related to potatoes and corn, and like these vegetables it can be used in many recipes. It has a crisp texture that tastes very much like potato but is milder in flavor. Cooked jicama also serves as a good thickener for soups and stews.
Jicama is grown commercially for its nutritious juice, which can be used instead of sugar in smoothies and other beverages. The root also has a lot of fiber and is a good source of vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium.
The browning of jicama is only temporary and has nothing to do with its quality or taste. As soon as you cut it, the brown color disappears. However, since this vegetable has a relatively short season (it's available from early October to late May), you should avoid buying it at prices where it's still on the vine.
That said, jicama doesn't need to be treated with special care, and it's easy to cook.