Why Shouldn’t You Leave Parsnips on the Ground?


Have you heard of people saying that parsnips shouldn’t be left on the ground over the winter because they might become poisonous?  Some say it’s harvesting them before the first frost that would make them so.  Either way, both are not true – they are myths that shouldn’t be believed at all.

The plant called water hemlock looks very much like parsnips and it is poisonous.  But parsnips – the real ones, not the look-alike – are not poisonous whether they are harvested before, during or after the frost.

You can harvest them anytime without any threat whatsoever to your health or life.

The only consequence of harvesting them too early is they might not taste as sweet.  Parsnips have a natural starch in them which the cold temperature helps to convert to sugar.  That means, if they are not exposed to frost because of being lifted too soon, they might not be as flavorful.

Allowing them to stay too long on the ground has its own consequence.  Parsnips that have overstayed in the garden will become woody with a very tough core.

Alternate freezing and thawing will also make parsnips taste bitter and might be spoiled by sodden conditions.  It is best that you add a few inches of mulch to prevent this from happening.  Also make sure to harvest them before the next spring or else they will go to seed.