Particularly pleasing, we parsnips are, even though we do say so ourselves. We may not be as colourful as a carrot, or as beautiful as a beetroot, but cook us right and we can hold our own with any member of the vegetable family – we're so tender and sweet and slightly nutty. Yumbo!
We are actually related to the carrot, and celery and parsley too, so we come from a distinguished family. We have a taproot similar to a carrot, but with creamy-white skin and a green, leafy top.
We're available all year round with our peak being from May to September.
There are many varieties of us with marginal differences in the shape of our taproots.
We're grown in loose fertile soil that is well drained. Our seed is planted in July-August and can take up to 6 months to mature. We're harvested, when our top is about 4cm in diameter, by a machine that digs us out and picks us up at the same time. At this point our tops are cut off and we're cleaned and packaged for the markets.
Select those of us that are small to medium in size, well-shaped with a creamy-white, smooth, firm surface. Avoid large parsnips as these tend to have a woody core. Parsnips which have straggly roots or blemishes should also be avoided.
Store us in the refrigerator crisper and use within 2 weeks.
We originated in ancient Europe and were once used mainly as fodder, especially for pigs. Even today, parsnips are prized food for pigs in Parma, Italy – the pigs ending up as delicious Parma ham! In medieval times we were claimed to have wonderful medicinal properties and were said to cure everything from toothache to tired feet!
There's no need to peel us, just scrub our skin with a brush, trim top and root end and cook. Leave whole or cut into 2-3 pieces and bake. Slice or dice and cook in boiling salted (optional) water for 5-8 minutes, or microwave until just tender. Stir-fry shredded parsnip. Serve as a vegetable on our own or mix with potatoes, carrots, apples or oranges, or add us to casseroles or soups.
Try some of these recipes:
Creamy Parsnip And Potato
Dice and cook 500g parsnip and potato in salted (optional) boiling water until tender, about 5-8 minutes. Mash and blend with 90ml milk, 25g butter and nutmeg to taste. Spread in a greased dish, sprinkle with sesame seeds and grill until golden.
Parsnip And Walnut Fritters
Trim and boil 500g parsnips until tender. Puree and mix with 1 large egg, 1/2 tablespoon flour, 45g melted butter and 1/2-1 tablespoon milk. Stir in 65g chopped walnuts. Pan- or deep-fry spoonfuls until golden. Drain and serve with sour cream seasoned with a little allspice.
Thinly slice parsnips with a vegetable peeler. Soak in a bowl of iced water for 15 minutes. Dry with paper towels and deep-fry until golden. Sprinkle with salt and serve as a snack or with a dip.