Busy Days

This week has been busy, which is nothing unusual, and it will continue into this coming week. Due to the fact that we have many of our auxiliary members who, due to Covid are not ready to be out in public, we are shorthanded in our gift shop. Working in the shop is almost always interesting; especially on the days the visiting doctors are on hand. You get to meet people, try to help them find something to purchase or they just look around. At any rate, there is something going on.
In addition to keeping the gift shop open all the needed shifts, we are also selling tickets for our annual spring drawing and celebrating 100 years of having a hospital in our small town.
There is a special display at the local museum honoring the hospital and our auxiliary, with a display of a shadow box containing the pins and bars showing how many hours the ladies have worked over a period of time. At last count, there were over 70K hours. There are mannequins dressed in uniforms of different types that have been worn over time. I did not get to attend the opening Thursday evening, due to a previous commitment, but from what I understand, it was awesome! I remember that when my Mother first joined in the 80s, they wore white uniforms of the same type that nurses wore, including white caps and looked extremely professional. Those days are long gone, and now our uniform is much more casual.
Friday morning, we had a dedication ceremony of the oak tree that the auxiliary purchased and had planted at the hospital in memory of this 100th anniversary occasion, with a reception following and members serving the cookies, punch and coffee! Everyone seemed to enjoy getting to visit and work with one another and it was great seeing the different departments working together.
Tonight, Saturday, there will be a very large, very dressy dinner as part of the celebration that I will be able to attend, it sounds awesome and I am excited to get to go.
This week, we’re going to learn a little bit about a vegetable called “Jicama” or ‘yam bean’. Several years ago, at bunco, our hostess served Jicama on the beautiful vegetable tray that she brought. I had heard of it before, but hadn’t really tasted it. In taste, it reminds me of the water chestnuts that are used in Oriental cooking, which means crunchy and a little starchy tasting. In fact, the first place that I ever read about it was in my Sunset Mexican Cook Book with a publishing date of 1970! They also compare it to the water chestnut as well as to a potato. In fact they state “It tastes so much like fresh water chestnuts that Chinese cooks often use it as a substitute”. I would see it in the grocery store and wonder “what in the world is that”, but I never tried it.
Jicama, which is pronounced “hee-cama”, grows on vines, with underground tubers, just as potatoes do, and is native to the warm climates of Central America, as well as the Caribbean, the Andes Mountain region and Southern Asia. It is a member of the bean family. As well as its formal name of Jicama, it is called “Mexican water chestnut”, and also “Mexican yam bean”, with a genus name of Pachyrhizus erosus. The skin is nothing like the edible skin of a yam, but is considered an organic toxin, as are the vines and leaves. In fact, the name “rotenone” is the same as a chemical used to bring fish to the surface so a stock tank or pond can be cleaned out.
Jicama are sold in most grocery stores in the produce section and they are round, and shaped similar to a turnip, with a texture similar to either an apple or a turnip. There are several varieties, but the most common in our stores is the one mentioned above.
To use, wash the tuber just as you would a potato, cut off each end to make a flat surface and then peel. In the articles I found, one sounds as if you need a sturdy paring knife to peel it and the other sounds as if you can use your regular potato peeler.
It is a very versatile vegetable, as it can be used in stir-fries, salads, slaw, soup and with other vegetables or fruits, as well as meats and seafood. A favorite Mexican recipe is to have it cut into slices and served with chili powder, salt and lime juice. In fact, that recipe is in the Sunset Cook Book and will be further down in the column.
It is low in calories and an aid to weight loss programs, is an excellent source of fiber and vitamin C, and a powerful antioxidant. It also has a healthy amount of potassium and vitamins like folates, riboflavin, and thiamin among others. Also it has the minerals of magnesium, iron, copper, and manganese, so these weird looking vegetables seem to be pretty healthy. (What I noticed on the vegetable tray, they did not darken as a potato or apple would, and stayed nice and crisp).
As far as I can tell, most people cut the jicama into sticks as you would a potato to make French fries, sprinkle it with salt and nibble away. However, our hostess served it with dip and it was great. (I wonder how it would taste if it was dipped into salsa?). For more information, “Google” the word Jicama, and enjoy the articles.
The article that I have been working from also has the following recipe for a salad using jicama, and just recently, when I received my Food Network Magazine, The Tex/Mex Issue, there was a salad recipe in the magazine!
Jicama Salad
1¼ pounds jicama
4 radishes
1 sliced scallion
2 tablespoons each, chopped cilantro and mint
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons agave syrup
½ teaspoon salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper

Peel Jicama and cut into thin matchsticks; cut the radishes into matchsticks, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, agave syrup, salt and cayenne in a large bowl, add the jicama, radishes, scallion, cilantro and mint. Toss together, season with additional salt if necessary.
Jicama Appetizer
1 tablespoon salt
¼ teaspoon chili powder
1 to 2 pounds jicama, peeled
1 lime, cut into wedges

Blend salt and chili powder and place in a small bowl. Slice the jicama into ¼ to ½-inch thick slices and arrange on a serving tray with the bowl of seasoned salt and lime wedges. To eat, rub lime over jicama, and then dip in the salt. Serves 6 to 8. (The photo with the recipe shows that the jicama has been cut into quarters or so and then sliced).