Friday, January 25, 2013

A Carrot This Is Not


 Despite the similarity
And vague familiarity
The startling reality

Its look is bland and creamier 
Its nutty taste extremier
Some large and quite supremier

So now I have you wondering
And clamoring and blundering
"What vegetable?" You're thundering

Eat parsnips all parsnipitty
In stews you'll shout out, "Yippity!"
A flavor deep and drippity

Judith Natelli McLaughton
(from her book Poems on Fruits and Odes to Veggies)

I grow ENORMOUS parsnips! They are definitely "large and quite supremier" like those in McLaughton's aptly worded poem. One thing I love about parsnips is that when everything else has been harvested, this winter vegetable is still developing. I love eating a fresh vegetable from my garden in the middle of winter! The flavor of the parsnip is not fully developed, in my opinion, until the roots have been exposed to a few frosts, as they need the cold temperatures to convert their starch to sugar. I sometimes leave some of them in the ground until spring. During the recent January thaw, however, I went outside with spade and bucket and dug up some beauties.

 You should sow parsnip seeds where they wont be disturbed, as parsnips have a very long growing period of up to 150 days. They perform well in all types of soil, but prefer a pH of 6.2 to 7.2 for best root development. I add organic matter, but not fresh manure as this causes the parsnips to 'fork' or split into several roots. I grow all my vegetables in raised beds, and last year I added a deeper one that proved to be ideal for parsnips.

Seeds beginning to germinate in the new raised bed.
Parsnip seeds must be fresh, so they cannot be kept from one year to the next. Some recommend soaking them in water overnight to speed germination. Using square-foot gardening practices, I sow 3-4 seeds in each square foot. I sometimes grow lettuces in alternate squares to get a little extra out of the parsnips bed. I have harvested the lettuces before the parsnips need all the space. I give the plants at least an inch of water a week to ensure tender roots, and in the middle of the growing season I spray them with compost tea. I top the bed with straw before the first hard freeze to overwinter the crop.

Wedges of parsnip, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with pepper make a wonderful side dish when cooked in a very hot oven for about 20 minutes. I add parsnips to winter soups and stews -- with delicious results. They are very nutritious, containing as much calcium as whole milk and 2/3 more potassium -- a good choice if you are sensitive to dairy products.

Since harvesting the parsnips, the Wacky Weather I described in my last posting continued with an arctic freeze. Brr... I haven't been outside to take photos since the freeze began earlier this week. The temperature was -5F / -20C last night and didn't rise above 18F / -7C today. I'm glad I took a few pics during the January thaw.

Daffodil Shoots in the January Thaw
Hellebore Buds
English Bluebells
Of course, the new shoots and buds are covered with snow again, and it's snowing as I write this.

When I harvested the parsnips, Billy enjoyed eating the tops almost as much as he likes carrot tops.

Dude came over to take a look. His winter coat makes him appear more like a black bear than a mini horse -- Compare the picture below with the one in the sidebar which was taken in July.

Dude in his warm winter coat.
I hope you are finding a way to keep warm if you are experiencing a harsh winter! This is a good time to sit next to the fireplace with the seed catalogs. The best part of winter is planning the spring garden -- oh, and eating parsnip stew!

Pamela x

Woodland Walk during the Jan. thaw.

~~ I love reading your comments. I hope you leave one so I’ll know you visited!
I look forward to visiting your blog in return.


  1. Hi there! I've never eaten a parsnip, but maybe now we'll have to grow some in our vegetable garden. I agree with you that winter is a wonderful time to look through flower and seed catalogs. I have a pile of them that I've looked at over and over! I really like seeing your animals!

  2. Love your pony. I've never given parsnip any thought. Learned something.

  3. Thanks so much for visiting, Charlotte. Glad you like Dude, but he may be a little offended at being called a pony -- he is a real horse in miniature. He is a very cute miniature horse, isn't he? P. x

  4. Hi Pam, I like to mix parsnips, carrots, potatoes, and onions with a roast and cook together in the oven or crockpot. Roasted with olive oil and a little sea salt sounds good too. I enjoyed your post today.

  5. I love parsnips, they are great roasted in the oven with a bit of oil, a drizzle of honey and a bit of salt. We have had a very cold 2 weeks period here in Britain too, but now we finally see an end to it and can go back to warmer weather in a day or two.

  6. Parsnips are my favourite root vegetable. I like the hint of aniseed in their flavour. Do you notice a difference in flavour between large and small parsnips ?

  7. b-a-g, I thought my oversized parsnips would have less flavor than smaller ones, but not so. I think the flavor is more dependent on being exposed to low temperatures. Small parsnips picked before a frost definitely are not as flavorful. P. x

  8. Try the parsnip bread (look in my recipes label bit) - great with soup. A very underrated vegetable. Also, try shredding them really thinly with a vegetable peeler and deep frying the slivers as streamers to top salads with. Delicious!

  9. I have never eaten parsnips, I know them but they are not grown very much in our vegetable gardens in Holland, nevertheless I like the poem so much that I think to look for a good spot to sow parsnips in my garden. Your goat Billy does remind me to the time we had goats when the children were young.

  10. I love that poem - extremier! LOL. I've always thought of parsnips as a slightly sweeter carrot. So good when roasted with other veggies like fennel and potato. yum. (and suddenly I'm hungry, must be dinner time..)

  11. I love spicey parsnip soup - really warming for this time of year. Great poem Pam!

  12. Hello Pam, after reading your post I had to ask Carl if he likes parsnips. I was surprised to find he's not a fan of them. I've never eaten them, so I guess it's high time I do! Your miniature horse is so cute, love his winter coat.

  13. Pam the email worked and I received word of your post. I received parsnip seeds this year so I was going to try them. Not sure if my growing season will work but I will carefully place them and keep them covered once cold weather comes...frigid here.

  14. Parsnips are my favourite, in fact, we're having them this evening as part of our meal. I'm not very good at growing them though, so these ones are shop bought, I'm afraid. What a good job that Dude grows a good winter coat, he'll need it with all the snow you're getting.

  15. I concur - you have magnificent parsnips! We love parsnips here! We eat them roasted and then drizzled with honey, or in stews, or creamed, or finely sliced and turned into crisps (chips).

    Dude's winter coat is marvellous. If only humans could grow a winter coat....

  16. I love parsnips, now you give me extra good reasons to enjoy them.

    Did you know you can use carrot tops to make pesto? Haven't tried it, but it sounds a good idea.

  17. Hi Pam,
    I'm trying to remember if I've grown parsnips before, but after reading your post, want to try some this season. I haven't eaten one for a long time, either. Now that I know they are calcium rich, I need to remember to eat them more.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I have not been visiting blogs as much as I used to, either.

    I hope spring gets here for both of us soon!

  18. Dude is adorable. Parsnips are ne vegetable not to my liking. My husband, who eats everything, does not really like them either, but they would be fun to grow.

  19. L.O.V.E. parsnips. And I adore the parsnip poem... a bit of a giggle.

  20. I love parsnips in soup and stew. I really should try them as a vegetable by themselves because I am sure they would be great. I am so happy that I was away for that really cold weather, but it is pretty cold right now, and I need to start digging snowdrops. I am trying not to think about it.

  21. Parsnips have sort been ghosting around in the back of my mind ever since I did my root crop study last year. You have inspired me Pam and I think I may have to find some parsnip seed for this year's garden. I loved the poem and your snow and especially furry Dude. I let the terrier's coat grow in winter too, a survival essential in our old house!

  22. Hi Pam, you don't half get good results with your Parsnips. Its a vegetable I had never eaten until we had roasted parsnips at Christmas a few years ago, and yes they were lovely. I like the idea of raised beds for vegetables.

  23. What an excellent poem and post. Will look forward to seeing your hellebores come up :)

  24. Count me in as a fan of parsnips. There is an element of surprise to harvesting them. It doesn't take much to keep me entertained:)

  25. Parsnips are a wonderful vegetable for homemade chicken soup adding a special cool that you grow them! Loved the poem and photos of Dude-a fun and enjoyable post.

  26. I know there are green shoots out there peeking, but for now, the snow is keeping them tucked in. I hope to find hellebores budding out soon.

  27. Looking a bit chilly to be sure. We are slowly starting to thaw out. Dude is so sweet, I used to have horses and love them, big or small. PS.. I'm one of those strange few that love parsnips. Lynne

  28. I will try soaking mine this year, as you suggest. That's been the issue with mine - can't get them to germinate. Isn't it funny how there are 'fashions' for vegetables? A few years ago in France I didn't see them at all but now, in 2015, they seem to be all the rage. We love them here