Know your Parsnips

  • The parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) is a root vegetable related to the carrot. 

  • Parsnips resemble carrots, but are paler than most carrots and have a stronger flavour. 

  • Like carrots, parsnips are native to Eurasia and have been eaten there since ancient times. 

  • Zohary and Hopf note that the archeological evidence for the cultivation of the parsnip is “still rather limited,” and that Greek and Roman literary sources are a major source about its early use, but warn "there are some difficulties in distinguishing between parsnip and carrot (which, in Roman times, were white or purple) in classical writings since both vegetables seem to have been sometimes called pastinaca yet each vegetable appears to be well under cultivation in Roman times." 

  • As pastinache comuni the "common" pastinaca figures in the long list of comestibles enjoyed by the Milanese given by Bonvesin de la Riva in his "Marvels of Milan" (1288).

  • Until the potato arrived from the New World, its place in dishes was occupied by the parsnip and other root vegetables such as the turnip. 

  • While parsips can be eaten raw, they are more commonly served cooked. 

  • Parsnips can be boiled, roasted or used in stews, soups and casseroles. 

  • In some cases, the parsnip is boiled and the solid portions are removed from the soup or stew, leaving behind a more subtle flavor than the whole root and contributing starch to thicken the dish. 

  • Roasted parsnip is considered an essential part of Christmas dinner in some parts of the English-speaking world and frequently features in the traditional Sunday Roast. 

  • Parsnips can also be fried.

  • The parsnip originates in the Mediterranean region and originally was the size of a baby carrot when fully grown. 

  • When the Roman Empire expanded north through Europe, the Romans brought the parsnip with them. They found that the parsnip grew bigger the farther north they went.