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Posted on Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 10 a.m.

In praise of parsnips

By Kim Bayer

parsnip2.jpg

Digging parsnips in March, just as the ground thaws enough to get a shovel in

Kim Bayer | AnnArbor.com Contributor

Mock oysters, crisps, cakes, wine(!), soup, pudding, hash — it seems there's almost nothing that the ancestors didn't do with parsnips. Often described as "sweet" and "earthy," parsnips have a distinctive piney note and are outstanding in roasted form or boiled for a creamy multi-veg mash.

In addition to looking like ghostly carrots, parsnips are unusual in being among the only foods that can be left in the ground all winter — and even improve from it. I know this now from firsthand experience. I planted parsnips last summer, and I ate the first ones last week.

Just before this last bit of cold, the ground was soft enough for me to get out my ladies spade and go after some sweet sweet underground treasure. With a heart filled with self-congratulatory parental pride, I pulled the first sturdy roots from the still-icy ground. The radishes I had planted earlier in the same bed came out all crooked and wormy, but the parsnips were perfect!

I think the easiest and best way to make parsnips is to peel them and remove the woody cores, then stew together with other roots and mash them up.

If that's not enough, Epicurious has more than 200 recipes for things to do with parsnips, but you'll have to look to The Old Foodie for how to make parsnip wine, and some of the more esoteric options.

Kim Bayer is a freelance writer and culinary researcher. Email her at kimbayer at gmail dot com.

Comments

LauraM

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 6:13 p.m.

Growing up, I thought I didn't like parsnips. Now I love them! As an adult, I learned that I just didn't like them the way that my Mom boiled them until there was nothing left! I just peel, slice in thick slices and put in the oven. I don't even put anything on them. They are sooooo good!!!

John of Saline

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 3:36 p.m.

How do you feel about rutabagas?

Vivienne Armentrout

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 3:35 p.m.

Parsnips are a little tricky to grow (soil needs to be well prepared and they sometimes don't germinate) but they are a very rewarding crop. They store well in the refrigerator too. I have found that a parsnip in a stock pot gives a richer more complex flavor to the stock, and they are also a welcome addition to pot roast. Now if it will just stop snowing for a while, maybe we can all start up in our gardens.

Jessica Webster

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 2:17 p.m.

Jolly Pumpkin is serving tempura-battered parsnips as their Farmer's Fritto right now, and it's delicious.