Getting out in the garden to clean up is a chore not usually met with excitement, but after the long, bitterly cold winter just past, it is a pleasure. Last fall brought a steep drop in temperature and big snow so fast I didn’t have a chance to dig the parsnips out of the vegetable bed so they were left, along with the turnips. They were left in the garden long after the rest of the vegetables had been harvested because the cold sweetens them. A biennial like others in the Apiaceae family, parsley and carrot, it’s not surprising parsnips can overwinter in our Zone 5a climate. The turnips had been dug up by an animal and chewed, but the parsnip tops had some green and showed a bit of new growth: an encouraging sign. I dug up three, cleaned them up and brought them in to add to the dinner menu.
One of the three appeared to have suffered freeze and rot damage in the core, but the other two were good. These were cut into chunks and tossed in a blend of olive oils and maple syrup, then roasted in a 400F oven for 25 minutes. Result: sweet, delicious parsnips.
Of all the root vegetables, I love parsnips best, and as with parsley & carrot, it offers many health benefits[1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21114468] including being a rich source of potassium, fibre, vitamin C, and folate among other nutrients. It’s easy to grow although vulnerable to afflictions such as the carrot fly larvae, parsnip canker, and root rot. Much of this can be avoided by taking care when planting: (1) seeding in loose soil that has warmed up (12C-15C or 55F-60F); (2) providing them with companion plants such as radish, garlic or onion; and (3) being patient about awaiting sprouts. With carrots and parsnips I’ve learned germination will take place faster in warmer soil so might as well wait the extra time rather than have seedlings rot or struggle. Make some space in your garden for parsnips this spring and enjoy them in late fall and first harvest next year.
- 2-3 parsnips (1 per person)
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp maple syrup
- Preheat oven to 400F
- Wash and peel parsnips, then cut into chunks
- Drizzle olive oil and maple syrup over parsnips and toss to evenly coat chunks
- Spread on cookie sheet or baking pan and bake in oven, stirring every 10 minutes until tender crisp, about 25-30 minutes
- Optional: I used a blend of extra-virgin olive oils (2 parts EVOO : 1 part harissa infused EVOO) to add a bit of punch. This could also be achieved with a light dash of cayenne when coating, before roasting.