Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Jicama: A Cautionary Tale

A couple of months ago the World's Best Next-Door Neighbor™ approached me with a proposition: Would I be interested in sharing a Bountiful Basket with her?

I'd heard about this food co-op program around Small Town, and the reviews were unanimously positive. Lots of nice fresh fruits and vegetables, delivered bi-weekly, and priced reasonably. The only catch is that you don't order what you want; you get what you get and you don't get upset (as we mothers say to our children umpteen million times when they're ticked off because THEY WANTED THE RED POPSICLE NOT THE PURPLE ONE). The only problem is that one box is more appropriate for the kind of families WBN-DN™ and I had a decade ago, which is to say families with four teenaged appetites in them. Now that both of our houses are empty nests, half a box each is plenty.

So WBN-DN™ and I have been splitting up the goodness, and it's like Christmas every other Saturday. I never know what might be in that cardboard box; all I know is that chances are it won't be frozen green beans or iceberg lettuce, which had tended to be way too high a percentage of my vegetable purchases.

We have eaten daikon radishes (roasted with a little olive oil, and delicious), yellow squash (roasted with a little olive oil, and delicious), and well, lots of other stuff that is delicious roasted with a little olive oil. (Why, yes, that's my go-to vegetable prep method. How could you tell?) Plus mangoes and apricots and other fruity goodness that either is out of season or never in season in the Midwest.

This week the box contained two cucumbers and a jicama that my neighbor tossed into my pile when she was splitting up the bounty.

"I never know what to do with that," she said of the tuber. Well, honestly, neither did I, but you can bet your olive oil that Pinterest did. Cucumber-Jicama Salad. Perfect.

So last night I peeled and chopped and diced and combined the cucumbers and jicama and red onion and cilantro, then I poured a red wine vinaigrette over it and served this fresh new taste to house guests.

Have I mentioned that you should never have a new recipe on the menu when you have houseguests? Yes. That is a rule of life that should be embroidered on a sofa pillow. Because this fresh new taste was...interesting. I took a bite of the jicama and chewed, and chewed, and chewed some more. I would say the taste it most resembled was "oak." Husband and the guests valiantly plowed through a hearty helping of the salad, but you know back in second grade when we had #2 pencils, and it was really fun to put teeth marks all over them? That. That's what it tasted like, if you poured a red wine vinaigrette over your #2 pencil before you dug in.

Later I asked Dr. Google what I had done wrong.

"The Jicama root can sometimes grow to a large size, but if the root gets too large – approximately around the size of two closed fists – the plant starts turning the sugars inside the Jicama into starch, which turns its sweet flavor and makes it taste like wood." (It says so right here.)

Aha! That's what was wrong. This jinormous jicama was the size of a baby's head, and not just any baby's head, it was as big as the enormous noggins of the babies born into the QueenBee family.

Next week when I do my shopping I'm going to throw a regular- or small-sized jicama into the cart. We're all curious to see if this salad recipe can be saved. And the next time an enormous baby-head-sized jicama shows up in the Bountiful Basket, I'm going to leave it for the World's Best Next-Door Neighbor. She can roast it with a little olive oil--it'll be delicious.

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