What are Parsnips?

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Most people have heard of parsnips, but only a few can really tell what this vegetable looks like.  What are parsnips and how will you recognize it?

A root vegetable that is a relative of carrots and celeriac, it usually has a white or pale yellow-pale orange color.  This vegetable has a unique growing cycle, preferring to be planted in the early fall so they can mature when the temperature turns cold.  Why?  The cold temperature helps the starch in parsnips be converted to sugar which gives it flavor.

This vegetable is common in Europe and in the northern areas of the United States.  It has a sweet, delicate and nutty flavor much like that of carrots, but its scent similar to celery.

When cooked, fresh parsnips have a soft texture that is not unlike butter.  However, over-mature parsnips would be tough; it’s taste bitter.  It can grow as long as 15 inches and about four inches in width at the top.

There are many ways to cook parsnips.  It can be eaten raw, parboiled, steamed, pureed, stir-fried, pan glazed, or included in stews.  It is used the way we use carrots actually.  They are also prepared the way carrots are prepared – scrubbed instead of peeled.

And like carrots, they can be stored longer when kept in a cool place.

This bulbous, sometimes long root crop is biennial but can be grown as an annual.  It doesn’t need to be rotated and are hardy.  Despite its good return, parsnips are not a favorite of gardeners especially in the South.

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