Parsnip is a root vegetable related to both carrots and parsley (which helps explain why carrot tops look a lot like parsley and make a great pesto).
Native to Eurasia, the parsnip has been cultivated since Roman times. Sometimes mistaken for a white carrot, the vegetable is similar in looks but is wider at the base and with its own distinct sweet, nutty flavour and slightly spicy characteristic which is hard to beat.
Parsnips’ sweet flavour comes when starch is converted to sugar. This happens in cold weather, preferably when frosts occur, which is why parsnips are best during the colder winter months. They should be smooth, hard and free of soft spots or sprouts, and are best when harvested young so they don’t develop a woody core.
Parsnips can be used in the same ways as carrots, though their flavour is markedly sweeter, especially when cooked. They are a classic ingredient in some chicken broths and soups, and can also be baked, sautéed, steamed, mashed or pureed, roasted, used in stews and fried, like most root vegetables.
Parsnips pair particularly well with other root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, celeriac and turnips. They’re also frequently served with red meat like a pot roast or corned beef but equally delicious with port, duck and venison.
Enhance their sweetness with honey or maple syrup, and spices like ginger and nutmeg. Complete their nutty flavour with the addition of pecans or walnuts.
Enjoy young parsnips raw in a salad with carrot and apple.
Add some crunch to salads or soups with a garnish of deep-fried ribbons.
Cut parsnips oxidize when exposed to air, similar to an apple. If not using immediately, place cut parsnips in a bowl of water with fresh lemon juice.