Parsnips—Much More Than a White Carrot

Parsnips pack more nutrition than nearly any vegetable, aside from the potato. They are high in Vitamin C, Manganese, and Potassium, as well as Vitamin K, Folic Acid, and numerous antioxidants. They have been cultivated since Roman times, although they were not popular until brought up to France, where Emperor Tiberius had them grown and exported to Rome. In much of Europe they are made into a soup, and in Ireland they are even brewed with hops and turned into an ale.

They are a very long-season vegetable—here we get the seed in the ground as early as possible, which is usually May, because it must be dry enough that it doesn’t compact too much or the roots will be stumpy. They take several weeks to germinate, and we hope for sizable roots in October. Parsnips taste best after a few freezes, which turn their starches into sugar—nature’s antifreeze. But they are very cold-hardy in the ground, so they can be harvested and eaten until March or April when they begin to bloom. As Tournefort, the herbalist wrote in 1730, “they are commonly boiled and eaten with butter in the time of Lent; for that they are the sweetest, by reason the juice has been concocted during the winter, and are desired at that season especially, both for their agreeable Taste and their Wholesomeness. For they are not so good in any respect, till they have been first nipt with Cold.” 

Butter-Fried Parsnips
6 Parsnips, peeled and quartered lengthwise
1/4 cup All-Purpose Flour for Coating
1/2 tsp. Seasoning Salt
1/2 cup Butter, melted

1. In a plastic bag, combine flour and seasoning salt. Dip parsnips in butter and place them in the bag. Shake bag to coat parsnips with the seasoned flour.

2.Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter starts to sizzle, add parsnips. Cook, turning occasionally, until all sides are golden brown.

Parsnip and Potato Gratin
3 Yellow Potatoes, peeled
2 Parsnips, peeled
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. Butter, melted
Salt and Ground Black Pepper
1 tsp. Fresh Thyme Leaves, divided
2 ounces finely grated Parmigiana Cheese, divided
3/4 cup Creme Fraiche or Sour Cream, divided
1 cup Chicken Broth
1 pinch Cayenne Pepper, or to taste

1. Place potatoes and parsnips in a bowl of cold water.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place garlic and melted butter into a 2-quart baking dish. Brush garlic and butter all over the inside of the dish.

3. Slice potatoes very thin using a mandolin or sharp knife.

4. Layer 1/3 potato slices into the bottom of the prepared dish. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle a few thyme leaves onto the potato slices and a light dusting of cheese. Spoon about 3 tbsp. of creme fraiche or sour cream over the cheese.

5. Thinly slice parsnips using a vegetable peeler. Arrange 1/2 the parsnip slices in an even layer over the creme fraiche or sour cream and season with salt and pepper. Repeat potato and parsnip layering process: 1/3 potato slices, salt and pepper, thyme, cheese, creme fraiche and remaining 1/2 parsnip slices. Dust with salt. Arrange last 1/3 potato slices on top and season with salt.

6. Pour chicken broth over potato-parsnip layer about 3 tablespoons at a time. Shake dish gently to eliminate air bubbles. Gently spread remaining 2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream over the potatoes. Sprinkle cayenne and remaining cheese over the top.

7. Bake in the center of the preheated oven until gratin is browned and a knife pierces layers easily, 45 minutes to 1 hour.


Roasted Parsnip Soup
2 pounds Parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 Carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
Sea Salt and Ground Black Pepper
1 Large Onion, diced
3 stalks Celery, diced
1 tbsp. Butter
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 tbsp. Brown Sugar
1 tsp. Ground Ginger
1/2 tsp. Ground Cardamom
1/2 tsp. Ground Allspice
1/2 tsp. Ground Nutmet
1/4 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
4 cups Chicken Stock
1 cup Whole Milk
1/2 cup Heavy Cream

1.Preheat an oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).

2. Roast in the preheated oven until the parsnips are tender and golden brown, about 30 minutes.

3. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and celery. Cook and stir until the vegetables have softened and the onion is beginning to turn golden brown, about 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, and stir in the butter, garlic, brown sugar, and the roasted parsnips and carrots. Continue to cook and stir until all of the vegetables are very tender and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

4. Season with the ginger, cardamom, allspice, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper; stir for 1 minute. Pour in the chicken stock, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer gently until all of the vegetables are very tender, about 15 minutes.

5. Pour the soup into a blender, filling the pitcher no more than halfway full. Hold down the lid of the blender with a folded kitchen towel, and carefully start the blender, using a few quick pulses to get the soup moving before leaving it on to puree. Puree in batches until smooth and pour into a clean pot. Alternately, you can use a stick blender and puree the soup right in the cooking pot.

6. Stir in the milk and cream. Return to a simmer over medium-low heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.