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Similarities and Differences between Root Vegetables Jicama and Turnip

Updated on September 5, 2016
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Beverley Byer has been writing on and offline for a number of years. Her work has been published in magazines and newspapers.

Jicama and turnip are bulbous root vegetables that are often compared with each other. But how are they similar? And how are they different?

Jicama | Source


Jicama, pronounced heekama, is also known as yam bean, Mexican potato, Mexican turnip, Chinese potato, Chinese turnip, and botanically, Pachyrhizas erosus. The perennial vine was introduced to Asia by Spanish explorers, but is native to Mexico and Central America. It is a member of the potato family and favors warm, tropical climate. It can spread beyond 18 feet and sprouts blue or white flowers and bean-like pods. The only edible part of the plant is its light brown or sandy-colored bulbous roots. The flesh is white, crispy like water chestnut, and sweet. The average tuber weighs about six pounds. Jicama is abundant from November to June and will last in the fridge for about two weeks.

The turnip, botanically known as Brassica rapa, belongs to the Brassicaceae or Cruciferae family which also includes cauliflower, broccoli, and radish. It has been used in Europe for about 4,000 years. Explorers and settlers introduced it to the rest of the world including Asia and the Americas. The plant prefers cool temperatures; grows aggressively to about a foot in height, and bears light yellow flowers. As a result of human manipulation, its tubers vary in shapes, colors, and sizes: round, long, oval or flat, white, green, red or purple. Its resemblance to jicama stems from the original white round, bulbous tuber with splashes of purple on the top.

Culinary Uses

Jicama can be eaten raw, but must first be peeled. It can also be served with dips or added to salads, soups, stir-fry, and sauces. The website,, reports that Mexicans prepare the tuber with chili powder or paprika, salt, and lime juice then chill it before consuming.

Turnip was considered the poor man’s food. In fact, records show that it was a popular livestock meal in Europe for at least 600 years and in the United States until the 1970s. The root vegetable can be eaten raw, preferably in salads, served with dips, broiled, baked or steamed with meat such as pork and poultry or added to soup and other vegetables. Young turnips require no peeling.

Nutritional Value and Health Benefits

Jicama is low on the caloric, fat, and sodium scales. It is loaded with fiber, vitamins A, B, and C, and minerals iron, potassium, and calcium. There are even some vitamins E and K, and minerals phosphorus, zinc, manganese, and copper. All of that good stuff makes the tuber effective in reducing the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, hypertension, the flu, colds, digestive issues, constipation, and skin conditions. It also promotes a healthy immune system. There are no side effects, but eat any part of the plant other than its root and you will have to call Poison Control.

Turnips are also low in calories and fat as well as cholesterol. Other nutritional value include healthy amounts of fiber, vitamins C, K, and B-complex, minerals potassium, calcium, as well as traces of iron, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, and sodium. The tuber has been shown to reduce the risk of colon and rectal cancer, and inflammation; aid in emphysema, osteoporosis, rheumatism, digestive issues, and weight control; prevent constipation, control blood pressure, and enhance the immune system. The only known side effect is its oxalic acid turning into kidney stones.

As a side note, turnip greens also called rape, rape mustard or mustard spinach can be consumed and have quite a bit of nutrients.


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    • beverley byer profile image

      Beverley Byer 6 months ago from United States of America

      Not sure, Mark. Maybe somebody else can answer. Thanks for reading my hub though.

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      Mark 6 months ago

      Can turnips be used in Kung pao chicken as a substitute for water chestnuts? (Although water chestnuts are not technically required I like their crunchy addition but I don't like canned and fresh chestnuts are hard to find).