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Similarities and Differences Between Root Vegetables Jicama and Turnip

Beverley Byer has been writing professionally for a number of years. Her work has been published in magazines and newspapers.

What's the difference between jicama and turnips?

What's the difference between jicama and turnips?

Jicama vs. Turnip

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

In This Article

  • History
  • Culinary Uses
  • Nutritional Value and Health Benefits


Jicama, pronounced heekama, is also known as yam bean, Mexican potato, Mexican turnip, Chinese potato, and Chinese turnip. The botanical name is Pachyrhizas erosus. The perennial vine was introduced to Asia by Spanish explorers, but it is native to Mexico and Central America. It is a member of the potato family and favors warm, tropical climates.

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 it must first be peeled. It can also be served with dips or added to salads, soups, stir-fry, and sauces. Jicama salad can be prepared with chili powder or paprika, salt, and lime juice. The salad is then chilled before consumption.


Turnip was considered to be a 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 meats such as pork and poultry; or added to soups and other vegetables. Young turnips require no peeling.

Nutritional Value and Health Benefits


Jicama is low in calories, fat, and sodium. It is loaded with fiber, vitamins A, B, and C, and iron, potassium, and calcium minerals. It even contains 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 if you eat any part of the plant other than its root, you will have to call Poison Control.


Turnips are also low in calories and fat, as well as cholesterol. It also contains healthy amounts of fiber, vitamins C, K, and B-complex, minerals potassium, and 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 are also called rape, rape mustard, or mustard spinach. These greens can be consumed and are very nutritious.