You’ve roasted carrots or eaten them raw 100 times. Looking to shake it up and expand your vegetable repertoire? Near your go-to root vegetables in the store, you’ll find the parsnip, the sweet yet often overlooked cousin to the carrot. This nutritious and easy-to-prepare vegetable is satisfying roasted, steamed, mashed, or raw.
Packed with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, parsnips are especially great for boosting energy, immunity, and metabolic function. So next time you find yourself stuck in a vegetable rut, try adding parsnips to your meal. They’ll broaden your horizons and enliven your diet.
You’ll find parsnips next to carrots, rutabagas, and other root vegetables in the produce section. Since they’re in the same botanical family, parsnips closely resemble carrots as well; taproots are about 8 to 12 inches in length, with a broad root end tapering down to a tiny tip. Parsnips usually have a slightly yellow or tan color, and some varieties have a hint of orange in the exterior grooves.
Parsnips are nutty and sweet—not a taste you expect from a vegetable! They are harvested after the first hard frost, which converts their starch to sugar. When you dice them raw into salads or roast them with other root vegetables, you’ll enjoy a flavor closer to carrots.
Parsnips are readily available during the cool winter months. Some regions offer them all year long.
After the first hard frost, usually between October and December in the US, and August through November in Europe, parsnips begin their sweet ascent. Their season lasts until the heat of summer arrives.
Expect parsnips to be firm with a rough exterior and a yellowish-tan color. Small- to medium-sized parsnips will be more flavorful. Larger vegetables may be stringy and tough, with a woody center you’ll have to cut out. Large parsnips are better for roasting or mashing.
Avoid parsnips with deep pits or squishy portions, as that indicates rot.
When deciding whether to purchase organic or non-organic produce, it’s helpful to know which fruits and vegetables are most affected by pesticides. Pesticides are toxins used to kill insects, invasive plants, and fungi during the growth of produce, and are potentially dangerous to people. National and international agencies agree that prolonged exposure to specific pesticides through food consumption is a potential health risk.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an environmental health advocacy and research organization in the United States. From cosmetics to produce, water to cleaning products, EWG provides insight regarding the impact of pesticides, manufacturing practices, and product ingredients on our health and environment. EWG produces a consumer guide ranking 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue. The higher the rank, the lower the residue. In this ranking, the 12 most affected fruits and vegetables belong to the “Dirty Dozen” and the 15 least affected are part of the “Clean Fifteen”. These lists help identify the produce that is most—and least—dramatically affected by pesticides. Parsnips aren’t widely commercially grown and don’t appear on any EWG list. However, while the non-organic version is not likely to be strongly affected by pesticides, organic root vegetables are particularly noted for having a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals because the soil is free of leaching pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides.
Keep unwashed parsnips in an open plastic bag in your refrigerator crisper for up to two weeks. However, its nutrient value is highest when consumed within 3 to 4 days of purchase.
Scrub parsnips lightly under cool running water with a vegetable brush. Parsnip skins are rich in nutrients, so peeling isn’t necessary if the parsnips are grown organically. Non-organic parsnip skins may contain pesticide residue. To reduce intake of pesticides, peel non-organic parsnips after washing. Regardless if the parsnips are organic or non-organic, cut off the tip and the root end. If you have large parsnips, there’s often a woody core to cut out as well.
Parsnips can be enjoyed raw or cooked. Grate, slice, or dice for your favorite salads, soups, and gratins, chop into large chunks to boil and later mash, or leave whole for roasting.
This immune-system-building vitamin offers a host of benefits. Vitamin C is an important nutrient necessary for collagen production, and is essential for maintaining the integrity and function of skin and bone tissue. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, fighting free radicals and protecting the heart, kidneys, and lungs from disease. This essential nutrient, often found in large amounts in citrus fruits and raw vegetables, may play a role in reducing systolic blood pressure and heart disease risk.
B9 (Folate or Folic Acid)
An important nutrient necessary for normal cell division during pregnancy and infancy, folic acid (vitamin B9) plays a powerful role in the developing infant. For adults, vitamin B9 is also essential for proper metabolism, aiding in energy and the production of red blood cells.
The majority of the manganese in the body is stored in the bones and organ tissue, mainly the liver and kidneys. Manganese is responsible for production and maintenance of sex hormones, blood-sugar regulation, brain and nerve function, calcium regulation and absorption, and carbohydrate metabolism.
Alongside sodium and chloride, potassium is an electrolyte essential for conducting electrical reactions in the body. Potassium aids proper muscle function, digestive health, and skeletal contractions.
B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
Helpful for metabolizing fatty acids and protein, two of the most satiating and long-lasting nutrients in the body, vitamin B5 is also responsible for maintaining the proper functioning of insulin receptors and energy maintenance.
The earthy parsnip is considered a superfood because it’s packed with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients important for the health of your digestive system, nervous system, and immune system as well as the health of your skin, bones, muscles, and blood tissue. The potassium in parsnips is especially helpful for those who suffer from chronic muscle cramps. Potassium is an essential nutrient responsible for the release of a muscle contraction. In other words, adding parsnips to your diet may help prevent painful muscle cramps.
Parsnips are also a good source of dietary fiber—one cup of sliced parsnips contains 7 grams of fiber. Dietary fiber aids digestion by helping food move along the digestive tract. Without fiber, you may experience constipation, irregularity, and low energy. High-fiber diets are associated with weight loss, lower cholesterol levels, reduced risk of heart disease, and reduced risk of developing type-2 diabetes.
- People in the United Kingdom often make parsnip wine. When combined with sultanas and a bit of orange zest, the vegetable creates a table wine that is mildly sweet.
- The parsnip is a member of the umbelliferae botany family, which also includes parsley, fennel, celery, and carrots.
- Before granulated sugar was widely available, many Europeans used parsnips to sweeten cakes and jams. The starch in parsnips turns more sugary after the first frost, when the vegetable is still in the ground.