Photo: Adam being goofy with a particularly large parsnip from our 2008 garden.
I’ve been thinking about mashed parsnips lately. Parsnip-eating season is still months and months away, but I will post this now in the hopes that you might still find the time to plant a few of these in your garden so that you, too, can enjoy the bounty with me in, oh, about October or November.
Parsnips are related to carrots, but they’re white, and they are a lot bigger in girth. Their seeds take a LONG time to germinate, but once they are germinated you don’t have to do much with them except keep them minimally watered. Parsnips are probably not real popular commercially, most likely because of the very same factors that make them so awesome for the home garden: they need to freeze in order to reach perfection, and don’t keep that well.
When parsnips are subjected to a hard freeze their starches turn to sugar. It’s so great to grow something like this in Minnesota where our growing season is so short — once you have your first freeze, parsnip season starts, and doesn’t end until they are all eaten up. I pulled our last bunch of parsnips in December, with snow falling on me.
According to wikipedia, parsnips are actually richer in vitamins and minerals than carrots, particularly potassium. Like any root vegetable they’re also rich in fiber and low in calories. Apparently they were thought to be an aphrodisiac in the middle ages.
I’ve eaten store-bought parsnips, and they’re pretty good, once you get that weird wax coating off (why do they do that, anyway?). But straight from a 30 degree garden, parsnips are more than pretty good. They’re exceptional magical amazing oh heck I can’t think of a strong enough adjective, so let’s move on to a simple recipe:
Butter, Nutmeg, Salt & Pepper (optional)
Slice up parsnips and boil or steam until tender. Mash with a potato masher. Stir in a little butter, nutmeg, salt & pepper to taste. Don’t even think about putting gravy on this.