Parsnips

I couldn’t find a lot of love for the humble parsnip on the interweb. I think of parsnip as a traditional ingredient, yet I found few national dishes including them. The references got more obscure the more I read.   

Parsnip mega-fan Emperor Tiberius imported French parsnips when his crops were fading and theirs were sweetening. The “Libro de arte coquinaria” written in 1450 by Chef Martino da Como did have a recipe for deep-fried parsnips, so the ‘nips had retained some culinary glory in the Renaissance. Sir Kenelm Digbie, 17th century Brit diplomat shared his parsnip pudding thusly: Grate the parsnips and stew the result in milk, till it hath drunk in a good quantity of the milk, and is well swelled with it, and will take in no more." ‘Well swelled with it’. Mt new favourite phrase.  

The most common google question about parsnip? ‘Is parsnip better than potato’ and ‘Is parsnip better than carrot’, which tells me parsnip has an identity crisis. The public perceive it as a potato-y carrot or a carroty potato.  

You are bold, you are beautiful. You are your own vegetable, parsnip! You’re perfect the way you are. Might need some good P.R, that’s all.  

Parsnip is closely related to the carrot. But is in no way related to cow parsnip. Cow parsnip? Maybe you’ve heard of its other name. Satan’s celery. No? Neither. The world of flora is weird, and I am here for it. 

A typical upbringing, Parsnip was borne in European Antiquity, then travelled to the Americas in the 17th century. The parsnip's unique flavour comes when its starches change to sugar, after the first frost. Probably a Cancerian, astrologically speaking. They enjoyed early fame sweetening jams and cakes before sugar was widely available. Once potatoes and sugar became a staple, parsnips fortunes faded. 

Did you know? Eating parsnip can relieve tired feet. No? Good. Because there's zero truth to that myth. It does boast 25% RDI of Vit C, Vit K 25%, folate 22%, manganese 10% per serve, 3g of fiber and smaller amounts of thiamine, phosphorus, zinc and Vit B6. Another rich source of old mate antioxidants, parsnips also contain polyacetylenes, compounds that may have anti-cancer properties according to some studies. The nutrients are close to the parsnips skin, so either peel lightly or not at all for full effect. 

To Store: Store in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. Remove tops, as they can draw moisture out of the parsnip. Store unwashed and loosely wrapped in a plastic bag.  

To Prep: Remove the tops, peel and chop. Voila! 

To Freeze: You can freeze parsnips raw. Clean, peel, chop and freeze on a tray then transfer to bags. They will last for 2 or 3 months. To maintain quality for longer, try blanching first. Dice into cubes and blanch for 2 minutes. Cool immediately in ice water. Drain well then place in freezer bags for up to 10 months. 

From around the world 

  • Parsnip, leek and cabbage Colcannon (Ireland) 
  • Confit Parsnips w/ herb vinaigrette (French) 
  • Hungarian goulash 
  • Italian parsnip and garlic soup 
  • English parsnip pudding (17th century)