Pleasure From Europe

Europeans brought the parsnip to the United States in the early 1600s but this creamy-white root has never become an American favorite.

Fresh parsnips are available year-round with the peak period during fall and winter. Look for small to medium, well-shaped roots; avoid limp, shriveled or spotted parsnips.They can be refrigerated in a plastic bag for up to 2 weeks.

Parsnips are suitable for almost any method of cooking including baking, boiling, sauteing and steaming. They’re often boiled, then mashed like potatoes.

Sweet Parsnips

Europeans brought the parsnip to the United States in the early 1600s. The first frost of the year converts the parsnip’s starch to sugar and gives it a pleasantly sweet flavor. Fresh parsnips are available year-round with the peak period during fall and winter. They can be refrigerated in a plastic bag for up to 2 weeks.

They may look like albino carrots, but parsnips have an identity – and a flavor – distinct from their orange cousins. This pale root vegetable, with its sweet, nutty flavor, makes a perfect side to a warm, winter meal. During frosty weather, some of the parsnip’s starch converts to sugar, which gives it that naturally sweet and nutty flavor.

Parsnip Facts

Parsnips contain small amounts of iron and vitamin C.

Parsnips are a root vegetable with a celery-like nutty flavor. Flavor is best in winter and will have a sweet taste after two weeks storage. Water hemlock is sometimes confused with parsnips since it looks similar but is a poisonous root.

Parsnips are best cooked as they tend to be very fibrous.

The name “Parsnip” comes from the French pastinaca and the “nip” added to indicate its resemblance to the turnip.

The first frost of the year converts the parsnip’s starch to sugar and gives it a pleasantly sweet flavor.

Rather than destroy the plant a parsnip improves with a frost as this turns a lot of the starch into sugar.

Much of the flavour compounds of the parsnip are to be found under the skin, this is why many recipes call for parsnips to remain unpealed.

The roots of wild parsnip are said to aid bowel movement and urine discharge.

Cow Parsnip: The cow parsnip is a common weed and a member of the parsley family. The tender young shoots are cooked like asparagus in Siberia, and in northwestern Europe the seeds and leaves were used to make a potent beer.

Size Matters

Size matters and, in this case, small to medium is better. Avoid limp, shriveled, or spotted parsnips and reach instead for those that are firm and well shaped. Stored in a plastic bag, this versatile vegetable will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator. After peeling and trimming the ends, you can boil and mash parsnips – just as you would potatoes – or saute, bake, steam or blanch them and toss them in a salad after they cool.

Parsnips can also be tasty additions to soups and stews; just put them in toward the end of the cooking time so they don’t turn mushy.

Parsnip Nutrition

Weighing in at 63 calories per half-cup, this root vegetable is a good source of fiber, folate and potassium. Parsnips also contain iron and vitamin C.

Tasty Tidbit. Put toasted chopped walnuts and a squeeze of lemon on parsnips.

Historical Tidbit

In the Middle Ages, European babies sucked on parsnip roots as pacifiers. Adults ate them with preserved fishes and eels.

Roasted Parsnips Recipe

  • 1 pound parsnips, cut into spears
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili or curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place everything in a bowl, toss well, and place on a baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and roast until the parsnips are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately. 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 96; Fat: 1.5g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 306mg; Carbohydrates: 20.5g; Dietary Fiber: 5.6g; Protein: 1.4g

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