Parsnip is a creamy white root that grows from 4 to 9 inches long, similar to a carrot in appearance and tasty like a celery heart. The parsnip is a biennial grown as an annual. A rosette of celery like leaves grow from the top of the fleshy root. Parsnips are a delicious type of root vegetable that has been cultivated and enjoyed around the world for thousands of years.
Closely related to other vegetables like carrots and parsley roots, parsnips have long, cream-colored tuberous roots with a sweet, slightly nutty flavor.
How to use parsnips and substitute for parsnips?
Here are a few tips to use these root vegetables:
- Before using these root vegetables wash them, peel them, cut the ends, and then chop them as you desire.
- They can be cooked in a similar way as carrots.
- They can be baked, fried, roasted, and garnished as well as added to soups and stews.
If your kitchen lacks parsnips you could substitute one of the following vegetables:
- Sweet potatoes
- Parsley roots
Health Benefits of Parsnips
- Improve Heart Health
Parsnips contain a high level of potassium, which acts as a vasodilator as well as reduces blood pressure and stress on the heart. The high levels of folate in this root vegetable reduce homocysteine levels in the blood, which are generally associated with a higher risk of heart diseases. The fiber found in this root helps reduce cholesterol levels. Thus, these root vegetables help in preventing stroke, atherosclerosis and other coronary issues.
- Rich in Dietary Fiber
Connie Weaver, the nutrition scientist in a research paper titled, “White Vegetables: A Forgotten Source of Nutrients” suggests that white or near white vegetables like parsnips have been praised for their high fiber content, particularly, because they are composed of soluble fiber. This variety is closely associated with reducing cholesterol levels, lowering blood glucose levels, preventing diverticulitis, reducing obesity, enhancing digestion, and more.
- Reduce Birth Defects
Parsnips are rich in folate (vitamin B9 or folic acid), which is also connected with reducing neural tube birth defects including cleft palate, spina bifida, and brain damage in infants. They also help in optimizing metabolic processes related to energy production and the nervous system. Additionally, these vegetables help new mothers to cope with postpartum depression.
- Weight Loss
As a low-calorie option with high levels of soluble fiber, parsnips fill you up and prevent the release of ghrelin, which is a “hunger” hormone. This can significantly reduce your likelihood of snacking between meals, thus, aid in weight loss. Also, the optimized digestive processes help you eliminate waste and get the healthiest nutrients from your food.
- Boost Immune System
Parsnips packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and organic compounds improve immunity by protecting the body from foreign invaders as well as toxic by-products from our own cellular metabolism. Vitamin C and E act as antioxidants in the body and eliminate or neutralize the harmful free radicals, providing relief from oxidative stress.
- Promote Growth
The full range of minerals and vitamins in parsnips makes them an ideal snack or dietary addition. They form a vital part of a balanced diet.
- Oral Health
Vitamin C and folate in parsnips boost overall oral health by preventing gingivitis, tongue inflammation, toothache, and bad breath. It maintains healthy connective tissue and gums as well as builds strong teeth.
- Enzyme Production
Parsnips provide manganese, which is an essential component of many enzymes in the body. Thus, they help produce enzymes that aid in managing digestive health, antioxidant function, wound healing, and more.
- Aid Digestion
The soluble dietary fiber in parsnips is a key component of our digestive process, facilitating the healthy movement of food through the digestive tract. It aids in reducing constipation and preventing other gastrointestinal disorders.
- Enhance Vision
The research journal Scientific Reports suggests that ascorbic acid, which is also found in parsnip, prevents various eye issues including age-related macular degeneration, which causes blurred vision in older people. The antioxidants in the vegetable also protect the eyes against damage caused by the sun. Overall it helps boost eye health and vision.
Spread 2 to 3 inches of mature compost on the area where you wish to grow parsnips—mature being the operative word. The parsnips will be in the soil for upwards of 120 days, so the growing plants will need plenty of nutrition: Compost that’s too immature could stunt or kill the young seedlings.
Prepare the beds as you might for carrots—slightly raised beds work well—broadforking if you can, then weeding like crazy.
Due to their long germination period, they need a weed-free bed. Water the bed several times in the late fall or early spring—or both—then rake out the weeds, paying special attention to not to go more than a few inches below the surface, which will stir up new weed seed. A harrow is perhaps the best tool for this job, though a flame weeder or blowtorch can be effective, too. Cultivate often, then harrow one last time before planting in the mid- to late spring to avoid seed rot. In the South, you can plant in the fall for a spring harvest.
Parsnips can either be directly seeded into the soil or started in soil blocks. However, starting root crops like this in soil blocks is tricky and will require you plant them as soon as they begin to germinate to prevent the taproot from becoming malformed; direct seeding is the preferred method.
As soon as the ground is ready to be worked in the spring, sow fresh parsnip seed in a 2-inch band about 1 inch apart (20 seeds per foot) in 1/2 inch deep in rows 18 to 24 inches apart. The seed does not remain viable for more than a year. The seeds will germinate at fairly low soil temperatures, but somewhere between 55 and 70 degrees F is ideal. Once the plants have reached 6 inches or so tall, thin them to 3 to 6 inches apart.
Parsnips require reasonably fertile soil. Avoid fresh manure, however. Keep the leaf colour right with LAN side dressings when necessary.
Before the seedlings emerge, apply linuron as a herbicide. With a pre-germination method, apply the linuron just after planting. If you plant ungerminated seed, wait until just before the parsnips germinate, when most of the weeds have already emerged.
When the crop is on its way, irrigate deeply less often as this crop has a deep root system.
Harvest parsnips when roots reach full size, about 1½ to 2 inches (3-8 cm) in diameter and 8 to 12 inches (20-30 cm) long.
Parsnips are ready for lifting 100 to 120 days from seeding.
Use a digging fork to loosen soil around parsnip roots and lift roots carefully; damaged and bruised roots do not store well.
How to Store Parsnips
- Trim away all but ½ inch of foliage and brush away soil before storing parsnips.
- Store parsnips cold and moist, 32°-40°F (0°-4°C) and 95 percent relative humidity. Place roots in a perforated plastic bag in the vegetable crisper drawer of the refrigerator. A refrigerator provides the cold, but also dries the air; placing parsnips in a perforated plastic bag creates a moist environment.
- Parsnips also can be stored in the garden, root cellar, or garage.
- Store parsnips in the garden if soil can be insulated from freezing. Keep the soil at 35° to 40°F (2°-4° C) by putting a 10- to 12-inch-thick layer of leaves, hay, or straw mulch over the rows; extend the mulch on both sides of each row by another 18 inches or more. This should protect roots even beneath two feet of snow. Dig roots through the winter as needed. If parsnips stay in the ground all winter, harvest them before new top growth starts in spring.
- If roots can’t be protected from freezing soil, dig them up and store them in a root cellar or basement or in a garage where the temperature is about 32° to 38°F (0°-3°C); store roots in a bucket or wooden box filled with just damp sand, peat moss, or sawdust. Pack the roots so that they are insulated and covered and do not touch one another; some moist air must be able to circulate so don’t completely seal the container.
- Parsnips will store for 4 to 6 months.
- Check roots during storage and remove those that begin to deteriorate.
- Do not store parsnips with apples or pears; those fruits emit natural ethylene gas which causes parsnip roots to become bitter