Parsnips are an allotment favourite, a root vegetable related to carrots.
Keen allotment gardeners who compete at shows enjoy growing ones with amazing long roots – which takes a lot of effort and skill. Fortunately for those of us with less patience and know-how, they taste just as good when knobbly and misshapen, and this is what usually happens when you grow them.
They do well in our climate and if left in the ground, they mature and taste all the sweeter after a winter frost.
They are also very good for you – an excellent source of minerals and vitamins, especially potassium and anti-inflammatories. For people wanting to avoid type 2 diabetes or just take more care with their diet and lower their intake of calories and starch, they are a good vegetable to eat in greater quantities.
Parsnips are easy to grow once they germinate – which can be slow. They don’t need much looking after and you can grow other quick growing plants alongside them as they take some months to mature. Also you can leave them in the ground till you want to cook them, thinning out the rows by removing the young ones, and leaving the rest to get really big.
Sow them outdoors from February to May (depending on the variety), usually once the ground has started warming up, and start harvesting in the autumn, through to February, when you start growing again!
Prepare and Cook
Young parsnips don’t need peeling. Older ones need to be peeled (thinly), their ends trimmed. Then cut into 2 cm chunks. To prepare parsnips, peel with vegetable peeler. Trim ends and cut into 3/4-inch chunks. Trim the end of the parsnip. into 3/4-inch chunks.
You can boil them (10 minutes) or steam them till tender.
Roasting brings out the flavour, and they are very tasty roasted with other vegetables, or on their own with honey and thyme, butter, oil and seasoning.
Parsnip soups will go down well even if people say they don’t like them, and they are brilliant winter warmers, ready to eat in around an hour or less, depending on the recipe.
They can be combined with a variety of other vegetables, roots, spices or dairy products like cheese. With apple, they taste extra sweet and yummy, and roast parsnips as the basis for a soup brings out their flavour particularly well. Most recipes for parsnip soups recommend blitzing in a blender (or using a hand blender) to give a smooth and creamy texture, but you can eat them chunky too. All in all, easy to make and easy to experiment depending on what’s in your cupboards.
The basic recipe for a parsnip soup is to cook onion in oil or butter till soft, then add the other ingredients and stock, then simmer. Cream can be added as the final touch.