Parsnips are a slow-growing root crop planted early in spring and harvested the following fall, winter, or early spring. Their flavor is dramatically improved by cold weather. We generally wait for at least a few nights of hard freezes before beginning harvest in late fall. The flavor will be a lot sweeter after the new year, though longer in-ground time increases the risk of being lost to hungry winter field rodents. A reality of growing parsnips in our soil is that for every perfect straight root that we pull out of the ground, we pull out several split, stunted, or gnarly looking roots. And then there are the perfect roots that get poked by a harvest knife or break on their way out of the ground. Fortunately, there are delicious ways to prepare both the beautiful & less beautiful roots, and every morsel of this long-to-mature crop is worth using.
HANDLING & STORAGE
Store these in a bag or container in your fridge and they’ll last many weeks.
IN THE KITCHEN
We give harvested parsnips a light scrub to remove major soil clods, but roots should be washed again in the home kitchen before use; grit has a way of clinging to niches in the root’s surface. A scrub brush or spare toothbrush will clean them up nicely. They generally do not need to be peeled if you wash them well.
Parsnips are best cooked, and have a rich sweet flavor. As relatives of carrots, they can be used many of the same way in cooking. They respond especially well to roasting. Any trimmings you remove (tops, tips, peels, damaged sections) will make excellent vegetable stock; don’t throw them out!
– Cube, toss with oil, and roast at 450ºF for 20-30 minutes, stirring part way through; great on their own or roasted with a mix of other root veggies
– Add to mixed vegetable soups
– Saute & boil with leeks, then blend with milk for a rich, creamy soup
– Slice thinly & saute, then top with nuts & maple syrup for a delicious breakfast treat; see the recipe for “Eliot’s Breakfast Parsnips” in Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (or google the recipe)
Parsnips last quite well in the soil and in the fridge, and we haven’t felt the need to try preserving them further.