Virtually fat free, parsnips are low in calories with only 60 per ½ cup when cooked. They provide some iron, although not enough to make it a source at this serving size. Good news though. Parsnips are a good source of folate and your half cup means you're getting about 11% of the RDA. The smooth, white root is also a source of magnesium, potassium, vitamin C and pantothenic acid. Bump up your serving size to 1 cup and you've got an excellent source of fiber at a hefty 6.4 grams.
The main commercial varieties of parsnip are similar in size, taste and color. They range from pale yellow to off-white. They can grow up to 20 inches long but they are most tender when about 8 inches. This is roughly the size of a large carrot. Varieties include All American, Hollow Crown Improved and Harris Model. All American is very popular and is distinguished by its broad Ã¯Â¿Â½shouldersÃ¯Â¿Â½ or top, white flesh and tender core.
Look for small to medium, well-shaped roots. The roots should not have a lot of hair like rootlets. Avoid limp, shriveled or spotted parsnips as they are likely to be more fibrous. Dark spots can indicate decay or freezer-burn. Choose parsnips with a creamy-white, smooth, firm surface.
Avoid irregularly shaped parsnips if you're concerned about wastage. Parsnips that aren't well-shaped require extensive trimming to prepare the vegetables for cooking.
Most parsnips are sold with their tops already clipped. If the leafy tops are still present, they should look fresh and green, not limp, wilted or browning.
Parsnips store well for 2-3 weeks in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator vegetable crisper. If the green tops are still attached, remove them before storing, or they will draw moisture from the roots. Do not wash before storing.
Cooked parsnips can be refrigerated and used within three days.
To freeze, select small to medium, firm parsnips that are tender and have a mild flavor. Wash, peel and cut into ½-inch cubes. Blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes. Cool promptly in cold water and drain. Pack into freezer bags or containers, leaving room at the top. Seal and freeze. Parsnips can be frozen for 8 to 10 months. Fully cooked parsnip purée may also be frozen for up to 10 months.
Parsnips are suitable for almost any method of cooking including baking, boiling, sautéing and steaming. They have a nutty, spicy, peppery flavor that is well suited to longer cooking times, as in casseroles and stews, or oven-roasted on their own. It also does quite well microwaved, steamed or boiled.
Before using, rinse well, trimming the root and leaf ends. If the parsnips are small and young, you can clean with a vegetable brush instead of peeling. Larger parsnips may need to be peeled and have their woody cores removed before cooking. Be careful not to overcook parsnips as their flavor is sweetest when just tender.
Note: Peeled and trimmed parsnips will turn dark when exposed to the air so cook them immediately or keep them in water with a little bit of lemon juice until ready to cook. FYI: 1 pound parsnips = 4 servings 1 pound = 4 to 6 small parsnips 1 pound = 2-1/2 cups diced, cooked parsnips
Baking Put whole or cubed parsnips in a covered baking dish. For savory results, season with broth and herbs and for sweet, cook as you would sweet potatoes, with orange juice, brown sugar, ginger and nutmeg. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes in a 350ÃŒÅ F oven.
Boiling Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil. Drop whole or cut-up parsnips into the water and simmer until tender. Cook about 5 to 15 minutes or until tender.
Microwaving Cut parsnips into large chunks the same size and place in a microwaveable dish with about 2 tablespoons of water. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap that has a few holes poked in it for steam to escape. Cook on high until tender, about 4 to 6 minutes.
Puréeing Boil, microwave or steam parsnips until very tender. Save some of the cooking liquid. In a blender or food processor, carefully place the cooked parsnips. Process until smooth. If purée is too thick or lumpy, add a very small amount of the cooking liquid and process again until smooth.
Roasting In a roasting pan or on a lightly oiled baking sheet, place parsnip slices or cubes. Cook for 30-40 minutes at 425ÃŒÅ F, turning once, until softened. If desired, season parsnip before cooking with salt, pepper and spices or brush lightly with olive oil.
Steaming Cook, trimmed, well-scrubbed parsnips in a steam and cook over boiling water. Or, place them in a saucepan with ½-inch boiling, salted water. Cover and cook until tender. Let cool and peel. For whole parsnips cook 20 to 40 minutes, for cut-up pieces 5 to 15 minutes, depending on size and age.
To bring out their sweetness, season with nutmeg, ginger, mace or cinnamon and a little brown sugar. Classic preparations include mashed parsnips topped with buttered bread crumbs, glazed and partnered with roasted meats or game, creamed or in mixed vegetable soups. Parsnips may be substituted for carrots in most recipes.
FYI: The first frost of the year converts the starch in parsnips to sugar and gives it a pleasantly sweet flavor.
Tip: To avoid mushy parsnips, add them to soups and stews near the end of the cooking time.
Healthy Ways to Enjoy Parsnip:
- Add shredded parsnip to hash browns.
- Include parsnip in cooked egg dishes such as frittatas.
- Small, tender parsnips can be peeled and grated raw into salads.
- Add cooked parsnip to pasta dishes.
- Parsnips make an excellent substitute for potatoes in stews.
- For a flavorful side dish, sprinkle cooked parsnips with herbs such as tarragon, thyme, parsley or chives.
- Add shredded parsnip to your favorite stir-fry.
- Mix parsnip with potatoes, carrots, apples or oranges for a side dish.
- Cook and mash parsnip as you would potatoes. Blend with milk, butter and nutmeg or other spices to taste.
- Serve fresh parsnip chips with a sauce of yogurt and curry powder.
For More Information:
- Foodland Ontario - http://www.foodland.gov.on.ca/facts/parsnip.htm
- Just Vegetables - http://www.justvegetablerecipes.com/veg-parsn002.html
- ChefÃ¯Â¿Â½s Garden by Terence Conran, Bay Books & Tapes, 2000.
- Growing Root Vegetables by Richard Bird, Lorenz Books, 2003.
- Spade, Skirret and Parsnip: The Curious History of Vegetables by Bill Laws, Sutton Publishing, 2004.
- Vegetable Identifier by Christine Ingram, Lorenz Books, 2001.
- Vegetables by James Peterson, Morrow, 1998.
- Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini. The Essential Reference by Elizabeth Schneider, Harper Collins, 2001.
Did You Know? In Tudor times in England, parsnips were a common ingredient in bread.