Parsnips, let’s face it when it comes to this humble root crop there is no middle ground. People love them, or hate them or like the vast majority of folks have never seen one and know nothing about them. Parsnips are a kind of shabby relation of the plant group that gives us parsley, carrots, Queen Anne’s lace and unfortunately the highly dangerous and invasive giant hogweed.
Parsnips resemble thin pale carrots with greenish shoulders. They are planted ½ inch deep early in spring and take 14 to 21 days to germinate. They require a further 95 to 120 days to mature. And herein lays the problem. Parsnips are not ready to eat, not really, until they have undergone a frost or two. Then their flavor in the opinion of many becomes very pleasant and mild and quite welcome on the table.
The really great thing about parsnips is that just like their cousins the carrots they may be deeply mulched, with hay for example and kept in the ground overwinter to provide a vegetable whenever needed. In spring they must be picked as soon as frost has passed, or once again their flavor declines.
Parsnips may be baked, boiled, stir fried or even mashed but it is in stews that they particularly come into their own. Here is a recipe for a lamb stew that is particularly good and a welcome dish on a cold winter’s day.
Nearly every seed catalog or website has a strain or two of parsnip available. Sustainable Seeds is one of them.
It is nearly planting time for parsnips, here in New Jersey; why not give them a little corner of their own in the garden and find out what you have been missing all these years.
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