Consider the parsnip. Ignored or overlooked. Mistaken for an anemic carrot. This humble root vegetable deserves your full attention. Can I entice you to try a couple? There's so much you can do with them.
How to Choose a Parsnip
Look for firm taut skin and avoid wrinkly or browning ones. Creamy white skin, thin, unwrinkled - hm, parsnips seem poised to be the next It Girl of the produce world. Plus, they're sweet and play well with others.
Anyway, thinner ones are best as the core of the fatter ones can be quite woody. But there's no harm in the plump ones, you'll just be paying for the weight of the core you'll discard.
As with some vegetables like collards, parsnips are best after first frost, the starches turn to sugar. Parsnips are generally available Fall through Spring. Parsnips are a good source of Potassium, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Folate and Manganese. They store well, in the ground, in a root cellar, or a vegetable bin.
How to Prepare Parsnips
Simply peel as you would a carrot (save the peels for your veggie stock or for tempura frying), split in half and cut out the widest section of core. Don't worry too much about getting it all out, no harm in it, just less flavor.
Parsnips are often used in soups and stews. I adore some in my chicken soup. The flavor is nutty and sweet, subtle and enticing.
They are lovely roasted with a mix of root veg, or boiled or steamed then mashed. I don't think I've ever heard of them eaten raw, but other than that there's no limit to how you can use them.
Parsnips excel when fried or roasted, which brings out their sweet nuttiness. Try them julienned and tempura fried or simply shallow fried then dusted with a spicy celery salt. I think they would go beautifully with Indian spices and in fact, the soup above has some parsnips as well as wheat berries in it and I finished it with a sprinkle of homemade Punjabi Garam Masala.
You can also mash and puree them which makes a nice snowy white pillow for a piece of roasted fish or meat - think roasted or braised meats like duck or lamb. Or mix with potatoes in your next mash or hash for a sweet surprise.
At New Year's I like to make coin shaped slices of carrot and parsnip then glaze with butter (or soy butter substitute) and parsley. A touch of honey, if you like. Sweetness and wealth for the new year. If you really want to gild the lilly, you can add a touch of cream.
Dice a mix of root vegetables (carrots, turnips, parsnips, even squash or pumpkins can go into the mix, or mushrooms) fairly large dice, toss with some olive oil and dried herbs (oregano, marjoram, thyme) and roast in a shallow pan like a rimmed cookie sheet. Easy, healthy and very satisfying to both eye and palate.
You can even pair them with apples or pears in soups.
If you are inclined to forage, be aware a poisonous hemlock is said to resemble parsnips in the wild. I'd stick to our farmers' markets.
Welcome sweet and savory fall flavors with some parsnips.
- How do you like them?
- Have a favorite recipe to share?
- What other unsung vegetables would you like me to introduce?