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Parsnips

Pastinaca sativa


Description

Parsnips are best described as resembling white carrots. They have a sweet, nutty flavour that is at its best when the parsnip is cooked.

Peeling your parsnip depends on the size of the vegetable. Smaller ones don’t need to be peeled at all; just top and tail them and they’re good to go. Larger ones do need to be peeled, and if you have a really large one it’s best to take out the core for even cooking and no woody chunks. Try to get the smallest parsnips you can, because most of the flavour and nutrition in a parsnip is directly below the skin.

Parsnips are a good source of fibre, folate, vitamins C, B6 and E, calcium, and minerals such as magnesium and potassium.

Choose parsnips that are firm, with no soft spots. Store as you would carrots, in a cool, dark place. They should keep for a couple of weeks in the vegetable crisper of your fridge.

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History

Like carrots, parsnips originated in Eurasia, and were used by the ancient Greeks and Romans. However, their history is somewhat sketchy as they so closely resemble carrots – especially as carrots were often white – and the same word was often used to refer to them.

Before the potato was introduced to the Americas, parsnips and turnips were often used where potatoes normally would have been.

Uses

Parsnips can be eaten raw, but they’re better cooked. They roast well, and are excellent mashed. If adding to a soup or a stew, only do so 15-20 minutes before the end of cooking, as prolonged cooking makes them disintegrate.

Facts

Because cold converts starch into sugar, parsnips taste the best after the first frost of winter – so if you’re growing them that’s the time to harvest!



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