Parsnips are a root vegetable related to the carrot and a member of the parsley family -- in fact, they look like a big, ivory-coloured carrot. Considered a winter vegetable because they need frost to develop their flavour, parsnips are popular in northern climates such as Canada's because they don't require a long growing season and store well through the winter. Parsnips, like carrots, have been cultivated in Europe at least since Roman times, though their prevalence decreased after the introduction of the potato from the Americas.
Selection and storage
Choose unblemished smaller parsnips over larger ones as they will be more tender. The best-tasting specimens, freshly harvested, appear in markets and stores in late fall and early winter, but parsnips from storage are usually available through to spring and even summer. Store them as you would carrots, in a cool, dark place such as the crisper drawer of your refrigerator, for up to two to three weeks.
Parsnips are a significant source of many nutrients. Half a cup of boiled and drained parsnips, according to Health Canada, contains about 70 calories, 2.7 g of fibre (10 per cent of the daily RDA), 30 mg of calcium, 302 mg of potassium, 48 micrograms of folate and 11 mg of vitamin C.
The Joy of Cooking suggests peeling parsnips and removing stem ends before preparing, and includes cream, butter, tarragon, chives, hazelnuts and nutmeg as flavours that have an affinity with the sweet taste of parsnips. They can be added to recipes in place of carrots. Nutritionist Leslie Beck gives the following suggestions for serving parsnips:
• Shredded and mixed with hash browns
• Peeled and grated raw into salads (best for small, tender parsnips)
• As a substitute for potatoes in stews
• Shredded and added to a stir-fry
• Cooked and mashed in place of potatoes
Or try the recipes below for more great cooking ideas.