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All about “Parsnip”, a vegetable with a sweet flavor

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Raw as cooked, parsnip reveals a pleasant sweet flavor. This root vegetable from the carrot family contains many minerals and vitamins. It comes from the Mediterranean basin and has been consumed for centuries. It is a winter vegetable that can be eaten cooked in water, as a soup or mash.

Parsnip characteristics:

  • Rich in fiber;
  • Source of antioxidants;
  • Beneficial effects against certain cancers;
  • Source of group B vitamins;
  • Source of potassium and magnesium.

Parsnip, what is it?

Parsnip identity card

  • Type: Root vegetable;
  • Family: Apiaceae;
  • Origin: Mediterranean basin and eastern Europe;
  • Season: September to March;
  • Color: Creamy white;
  • Flavor: Mild and sweet.

Parsnip characteristics

At harvest, parsnip is a root with clear skin and firm, white flesh that can weigh up to 250g.

Differences with nearby foods

Parsnip is a root vegetable just like carrot. There is also a slight sweet taste in the two vegetables but the parsnip contains twice as many carbohydrates as the carrot.

Word from the nutritionist

Parsnip is a source of fiber to help meet daily needs. A portion of parsnip corresponds to approximately 180g of cooked parsnip.

Nutritional values

Per 100g of raw parsnip:

Nutrients                                                             Quantities                                                            
Protein 1.31 g
Fat 0.43 g
Carbohydrates 12.1 g
Water 77.5g
Fibers 2.13 g
Vitamin B1 0.08 mg
Vitamin B5 0.5 mg
Vitamin B9 59 µg
Magnesium 26 mg
Copper 0.14 mg
Iron 0.71 mg

7 benefits of parsnip: why eat it?

  1. The parsnip contains active molecules which would play a role in the prevention of cancer. In particular, it contains an antioxidant capable of reducing the activity of an enzyme involved in the development of this disease. Other compounds in parsnip (polyacetylenes) have also been shown to decrease the proliferation of cancer cells.
  2. The parsnip contains apigenin, an antioxidant that is believed to play a role in preventing cancer.
  3. parsnip is considered a source of fiber. Dietary fiber is only found in plants. They include a set of substances that are not digested by the body. A high-fiber diet satisfies faster than a low-fiber diet. In addition, eating fiber would reduce the risk of colon cancer. Parsnip mainly contains insoluble fiber, which can help prevent constipation by increasing the volume of stool. It is recommended to consume 25 g of fiber per day for women from 19 to 50 years old, and 38 g per day for men of the same age group.
  4. Raw parsnip is a good source of manganese, while boiled parsnip is a source, and manganese acts as a cofactor for several enzymes that facilitate a dozen different metabolic processes. It also participates in the prevention of damage caused by free radicals.
  5. Parsnip is a source of vitamin B1. Also called thiamine, vitamin B1 is part of a coenzyme necessary for energy production, mainly from the carbohydrates we eat. It also participates in the transmission of nerve impulses and promotes normal growth.
  6. Boiled parsnip is a source of magnesium, while raw parsnip is a source for women only. Magnesium participates in bone development, protein construction, enzymatic actions, muscle contraction, dental health and the functioning of the immune system. It also plays a role in energy metabolism and in the transmission of nerve impulses.

How to choose your parsnip

Preferably choose healthy roots of medium size: the larger ones may be fibrous, while the smaller ones will dry out quickly.

The different forms

The different varieties of parsnip are due to their difference in shape. We find the long parsnip, the semi-long parsnip and the round parsnip.

Keep well

In the refrigerator: Two weeks in a perforated or open plastic bag.
In a cellar: All winter in slightly damp sand, but they are even better if stored in the garden, in the ground.

Parsnip preparation

How to cook it? How to match it?

  • Freshly grated, in salads.
  • Simply slice the parsnip and sauté it briefly in butter and olive oil. Note that the parsnip cooks much faster than the carrot.
  • Roasted in the oven.
  • Iced, in butter and honey flavored with grated ginger. Add chicken broth and reduce.
  • Mashed, on its own or with potatoes, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, squash or carrots. Try a parsnip and pear puree cooked with a little cream to tie it all together.
  • A typical Irish dish, “callcannon”, is made from mashed potatoes and parsnips, to which are added melted onions and baked in the oven.
  • Flavor the broth of a couscous with parsnip.
  • In soups. Dare the parsnip and apple soup, seasoned with garlic, cumin, curry powder, cardamom and coriander.
  • With salted fish mixed with hard-boiled eggs, butter and mustard, as was commonly done in the 18th century.
  • In the form of pancakes. Grate the parsnip with potatoes. Mix with minced onions, an egg, baking soda and flour. Shape into patties that you will cook for a few minutes in a little hot oil. Serve with fish and a tomato and olive salad. To vary, replace the potatoes with grated carrots.
  • In Spain, ham or pork shoulder is served with stems and cooked leaves. They are incorporated into a vegetable broth. We prepare a dish, the lubina con navajas, composed of sea bass and knives (a type of mollusk) accompanied by a sauce made from parsnip stems.


Oral allergy syndrome

Parsnip is a food implicated in oral allergy syndrome. This syndrome is an allergic reaction to certain proteins from a range of fruits, vegetables and nuts. It affects some people with allergies to environmental pollens and is almost always preceded by hay fever.

So, when some people allergic to ragweed consume raw parsnip (cooking usually degrades allergenic proteins), an immunological reaction may occur. These people experience itching and burning sensations in the mouth, lips and throat. Symptoms may appear and then disappear, usually within minutes of eating or handling the offending food. In the absence of other symptoms, this reaction is not serious and the consumption of parsnip does not have to be systematically avoided. However, it is recommended that you consult an allergist to determine the cause of reactions to plant foods. The latter will be able to assess whether special precautions should be taken.

Parsnip rich in carbohydrates

Although parsnip can replace carrots in the preparation of recipes, it contains almost twice as many carbohydrates (sugars). Even if their glycemic load is moderate (due to the presence of fiber), people with diabetes or hypoglycaemia, called upon to monitor their carbohydrate consumption, benefit from taking this aspect into account when planning their diet.

Furanocoumarins, sun and skin

Parsnips, and other plants such as celery, contain furanocoumarins – photosensitizers. Contact of these vegetables with the skin, combined with exposure to the sun, can sometimes cause skin irritation called phytophotodermatitis. This reaction particularly affects workers in agricultural circles or food markets, often in contact with plants that contain furanocoumarins. These can also cause reactions in people who go to tanning salons. On the other hand, the ingestion of normal amounts of parsnip in the population has not been associated with risks of harmful interaction with light.

Parsnip history

The term “parsnip” appeared in the French language in 1562. It comes from pastinaca, Latin name of the plant, which would be derived from pastina and, before, from pastus, “food”. It could come from pastino, which means “preparing the soil for planting”, perhaps by analogy with the sometimes forked shape of the root reminiscent of that of a 2-tooth spade. Finally, others attribute its origin to panax, the Latin name for ginseng which means “panacea”, because of its alleged medicinal properties.

Parsnip comes from the Mediterranean basin and from regions further east, up to the Caucasus mountains. It was known to the Greeks and Romans, but it is not known when it was domesticated and how it spread in Western Europe. In the texts of Greek and Roman Antiquity, the Latin name of pastinaca meant both parsnip and carrot, which created confusion between the two vegetables. Athenaeus, a scholar who lived in the second century AD, believed that it was the same plant. At the same time, the doctor and botanist Galien will try to correct the situation by giving the carrot the name of Daucus pastinaca, but the confusion will not be completely dissipated until the XIXth century with Linné, who will attribute to the parsnip a specific botanical genre.

The royal parsnip…

Legend has it that the Roman emperor Tiberius loved parsnips so much that he brought them every year from Germany, where this root vegetable grew in abundance on the banks of the Rhine.

In the Middle Ages, parsnip was considered a staple food by the people. As for the bourgeois class and the nobility, they avoid it, like all vegetables elsewhere, reputed to be unhealthy.

In Europe, parsnip will be consumed especially in England and in the other north-eastern countries. The French disdained him. Today, it is finding some popularity among lovers of old vegetables, as well as in the general population. It is synonymous with health food.

From their first trips, Europeans introduced it to the New World. However, it has never become very popular even if it is consumed moderately in some places.

Very sweet, the parsnip was used to prepare syrups, jams, wine and even a pastry flour.

For further

Organic gardening

Parsnip seed is only fertile for a very short time. We must therefore get fresh ones every year. Avoid sowing more than one variety in the same year and make sure there is no wild parsnip within 0.5 km, or protect against pollinating insects with a fine veil.

It is possible to produce your own seeds. As the plant is biennial, the best plants can be left in the ground during the winter and transplanted close to each other the following spring. They will probably have to be staked, because they will go up to more than 1 m before producing flowers and seeds.

Parsnip likes cold

The root does not acquire its sweetness and flavor until after a few good jellies. Very resistant to cold, parsnip can also be left in the ground all winter. Covered with a good mulch, it can even be harvested during winter thaw periods, as well as very early in the spring.

Parsnip being a long-term plant (100 to 120 days), it is sown in May. Soak the seeds before sowing them 2 cm deep, tightened in the row, to compensate for their poor germination power. Keep the soil moist until germination. Thin the plants to 8 cm or 10 cm.

There are a few round and short root varieties that are suitable for heavy, shallow soils. However, the seeds of these varieties are rare: although, at the end of the XIXth century and at the beginning of the XXth, they appeared in the seed catalogs of Quebec, one seems to find them more only in France.

The carrot fly is the main parasite of parsnip. It can cause considerable damage, in particular because the root remains in the ground for a very long time and is therefore very exposed. Here are the main measures to counter this pest.

  • Cover the plants with a light agrotextile fabric allowing light to pass through (85%) while the plants are growing. During hot weather, the fabric can be removed for short periods, but it should be put back as soon as the weather is cooler.
  • This parasite being attracted by the smell of crumpled foliage, avoid leaving seedlings that have been thinned near the flower bed.
  • Sow parsnips in a windy place: the fly has a hard time fighting strong winds.
  • Try companionship with onions, knowing however that it will only be effective if you sow 4 rows of onions for 1 row of parsnips.
  • The leaves of very fragrant plants – especially tansy and wormwood – deposited at the base of the plants could deceive the fly by modifying the ambient odor, but they must be replaced as soon as they have lost their odoriferous power.
  • A weekly watering with lessis (wood ash diluted in water) is very effective against unwanted insects.

Ecology and environment

Wild parsnip differs from cultivated parsnip only in the size of its roots and their flexibility. This plant grows in abundance in open and dry places, both in the countryside and in the city, throughout Quebec, except in the north. Its large yellow inflorescences make it easy to identify, because it is the only large plant in the apiaceae family whose flowers are not white. In the fall, its seeds are used as food for birds preparing to migrate or winter.

The leaves of the wild parsnip are edible as are its seeds which, in small quantities, can be used as a condiment. On the other hand, the root is insignificant because it is too small and fibrous. However, caution is advised during picking, in some people the leaves may cause skin irritation.

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