What is a parsnip?
The sweet flavour of caramelised parsnip goes hand in hand with the traditional Sunday roast dinner. A glug of butter, oil or cream enhances its nutty taste and allows it to shine as an accompaniment to meat, chicken or fish.
A root vegetable like carrot, the parsnip is native to Europe and Asia. It was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans and cultivated in the Middle Ages. Parsnips lost favour with Europeans when potatoes from the New World were introduced.
The British introduced the plant to North America in the 17th century before the introduction of the potato in the 19th century.
In Australia, parsnips are not sold by variety. The parsnips available in supermarkets and fresh food markets look similar to carrots, with a tapered root, but they have creamy-white skin and flesh.
Why parsnips are good to eat
- Parsnips are a good source of vitamins C and B3 (niacin) and K (important for helping your blood to clot).
- They contain dietary fibre and folate.
- Parsnips also contain minerals such as potassium (which helps to regulate blood pressure) and iron (involved in red blood cell formation).
- Energy – 100 g of parsnip supplies 240 kJ.
How are they grown and harvested?
Parsnip plants grow best in areas that have cool, moderate climates. They have a long growing season and require plenty of water.
Seedlings can take up to four weeks to appear and parsnips are ready to harvest in about six months from planting. Parsnips can be harvested when they are about 4 cm in diameter. It is best not to leave them in the ground for too long because they will become woody and fibrous. Cut off the leaves and store in the crisper section of the fridge.
Choose small to medium parsnips that are coloured cream to white. Large parsnips are more likely to have woody centres and are not as tasty. Avoid parsnips that have spindly roots, soft spots or other visible damage or ones that are limp.
How to store and keep parsnips
After removing the leaves, store parsnips in a vegetable storage bag in the crisper section of your fridge. Avoid wrapping parsnips in plastic as they will sweat and deteriorate in quality.
Parsnips will stay fresh for up to a week when stored in the fridge but it’s best to use parsnips as soon as possible after buying them.
How to use
- Add an Indian flavour to your parsnip soup – cook parsnips with curry leaves, mustard seeds, turmeric and curry paste, then blitz in a food processor and top with chopped coriander leaves before serving.
- Make parsnip chips – slice parsnip and fry, then drain and season with salt and serve with meat or chicken and a simple green salad.
- Roast parsnips and serve with meat or fish – coat with a mixture of parmesan and flour and bake until crunchy and golden brown.
- Try parsnip and potato fritters – boil parsnip and potato, grate and mix with thyme, chopped onion and seasoning, then fry until they form a crispy, gold crust.
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Better Health Channel
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