Parsnips were widely cultivated in Europe before being introduced to North America in the 17th century. They used to serve as staple starch like the potato, and sweet varieties were often fermented into wine. These root vegetables have a long growing season and thus are not generally available until fall, but these sweet veggies are worth the wait! In fact, they become even sweeter after a frost where some starch is converted to sugar. Parsnips are high in potassium and vitamin C, as well as carbohydrates and vegetable protein.
For optimal storage, trim off tops and refrigerate in a plastic bag for at least a couple of weeks. For longer-term storage, blanch 1-inch chunks and freeze in an airtight bag.
Scrub parsnips to remove any lingering soil. Boil 1-inch chunks for 8-10 minutes. Alternatively, steam 1-inch chunks for at least 5 minutes and puree; eat plain or top with butter and herbs such as parsley. Sauté thin slices in olive oil or butter, and add a dash of salt and pepper. Roast or grill, alone or with other root vegetables. Parsnips can also be enjoyed raw, grated into salads or cut into sticks for dipping.
Cauliflower and Parsnip Gratin
1 head cauliflower, trimmed into small florets
1 large parsnip, sliced into 1-inch chunks
4 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing the pan
1 shallot, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 - 2 ½ cups milk, warmed
1 cup grated extra-sharp aged cheddar
Dash of hot sauce (optional)
¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Add the cauliflower and parsnips to a large pot of salted boiling water. Cook to soften, about 4 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water in the sink. Add the butter to a large pan over medium-high heat. Once the butter is foaming, add the shallots and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir in the flour and cook until pale blonde and pasty, 2-3 minutes. Slowly whisk in the warm milk, making sure no lumps from the flour remain. The sauce should begin to thicken up as it begins to simmer. Once the sauce becomes thick, turn the heat to low, and add the cheddar in handfuls. Stir until melted and season with hot sauce. Add the drained cauliflower and parsnips into the cheese sauce and stir to coat.
Mix together the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, olive oil, parsley and some salt and pepper in a small bowl. Top the casserole with the breadcrumb mixture. Bake until bubbling and golden, 20 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before serving. (Original recipe here.)
Parsnip Carrot Ginger Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
6 scallions, coarsely chopped
4-5 parsnips (approx.. 1 pound), sliced into ½-inch pieces
2 medium carrots, sliced into ½-inch pieces
3 ½ cups vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Heat oil over medium heat. Add the ginger and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add the scallions, the parsnips, carrots, and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until parsnips and carrots are tender. Transfer the soup to a blender (or use an immersion blender) and blend until smooth. Return to heat and season with salt and pepper. (Original recipe here.)