In Season: Parsnips

Whether you're a CSA devotee, a farmers' market weekender or consider ketchup a veg, we'll bring you fresh inspiration for how to prepare our local produce.

This week's harvest: Parsnips

Parsnips are not white carrots. Oh no, these sweet spicy roots have their very own personality and it's a rock star. Yes, they resemble carrots but they have this heavenly flavor that makes me think honey and a bit of cardamom edge. They are another one of those vegetables that you love and you didn't even know it. If you are bit stumped as to what to do with them, don't worry. We'll have it all right here including my slacker but always really delicious "oven roasted vegetable" recipe.

When are parsnips in season?
February through May

A little background:
Parsnips are usually not grown in warmer climates as they need frost to develop their flavor. It's thought that parsnips originated in the Mediterranean region and were pretty small roots. As the Roman empire grew and they moved north, they found that they started growing bigger. Romans also believed that parsnips were an aphrodesiac. Wonder where they got that idea? Parsnips are a great way to get your potassium and even your fiber. Speaking of fiber, they are a bit more fiberous than carrots, so keep that in mind if you are expecting white carrots, which do exist. It doesn't have the same exact texture and that's probably why you find more cooked recipes for parsnips than raw.

Selecting, cleaning and storage tips: Choose firm parsnips ideally with the parsley-looking tops attached. Some think that the "whiter" parsnips are sweeter. That's something I've never taste tested to be sure, but sounds believeable. Like with carrots and beets, you'll want to cut the tops off when you get home. However, unlike carrot tops that can be eaten, parsnip tops probably want to be avoided. While they probably won't make you sick if you eat them, they do have a chemical that when handled can "burn" your skin in the sun. Freaky. Wash your hands and take a pass on eating those greens. Keep the roots in a plastic bag in the fridge so that they don't try out. I'm not sure why but they don't seem to last as long as carrots. Eat these first. What do to if you have parsnips in your pantry:

​Do a little dance.

Then make one of these recipes.

Parsnip fries. Yeeeeeeesssss. Make these first if you've never had parsnips.

Parsnip and potato puree. Dreamy.

Shaved raw into a Parsnip, Parmesan, Parsley And Lemon Salad.

Cream of leek and parsnip soup. Perfect.

About 75% of the time at my home, I roast whatever vegetable we decide to eat for dinner. I'm sorry if it's boring but if you're picking up some great produce or growing it at home, it's going to taste exactly how you want it to - it rocks. A little roasty toasty, a little sweet, a little soft and it was so dang easy. If you are an experienced cook, the recipe is this: 425 for 20 minutes. If you need all the steps, here they are:

Slacker (aka Oven Roasted) Veg

Olive Oil
Fresh Herbs (optional)

Get out a heavy sheet pan with short sides (like 1"). Turn on your oven to 425 degrees.
Cut your vegetables into about ¾" cubes (or don't - I like having some pieces crispy and brown and some soft). Toss with enough olive oil to coat (I do this just in the roasting pan) and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. If you have rugged woody herbs like rosemary or thyme, you can add that now. Toss again and then shake the pan so that the vegetables are evenly dispersed. Throw the pan in the oven and in 20-25 minutes until done. It looks gorgeous and if you have any soft leaf herbs (like parsley or basil), you can sprinkle those on top of them now. I skip it usually. I just can't be bothered to do one more thing sometimes. Serve and be thankful you didn't have to work very hard to eat amazing vegetables.

Jennifer Woods is a local food advocate with over 10 years working in the AZ food industry, and currently works for Crooked Sky Farms, a CSA produce farm based in South Phoenix.

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