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{Series: Those Weird Veggies} Everything you Didn’t Know to Ask About Parsnips

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Welcome to a new series that I’m so excited about:

Those Weird Veggies.

Thanks to some developing health issues, I’ve had to pull back from my go-to recipes (like meals including grains, dairy, and eggs) and really focus on meats, fruits, and veggies. Desperation can drive you to exploration… and in the process I’ve discovered some fascinating new produce that I can’t wait to share with you.

To inaugurate this series, I’d like to begin with parsnips.

Cool Series what to do with those Weird Veggies all about how to buy store make and eat parsnips

Exactly What Are Parsnips?

You remember that phrase always uttered when Super Man flies by? (It’s a bird… it’s a plane … no, it’s Super Man!) I feel like parsnips fall into that category.

When you look at parnsips, they kinda look like a white carrot. But when you cook with parsnips, you’ll find that they have properties that mirror potatoes: white flesh, creamy consistency, nice taste.

I found mine at the local grocery store not far from the carrots.

Parsnips in the grocery store

Parsnips have an interesting history. Their use dates back to Greek and Roman times, where we have writings of people debating “Is this a parsnip? Or is this a carrot?” (Exciting stuff, I tell you.) One Roman emperor even accepted tribute from another country in the form of … parsnips. (source)

Parsnips were heavily featured in American colonial cooking, brought over by both French and English colonists. But the popularity of the parsnip began to fade in the mid 1800s when the white potato surged in popularity.

So Why Cook With Parsnips?

As part of being good stewards of our bodies, it’s important to eat a well-rounded diet. The parsnip is not merely a white carrot. In fact, compared to the humble carrot it has 31% more Vitamin C, 255% more potassium, 8% more magnesium, and even a whopping full gram more of protein.

The parsnip is a venerable vegetable (say that 5 times fast) in its own right.

But here’s more good news: the parsnip can be a fantastic substitute for potatoes. Some people avoid white potatoes because of their high starch and impact on blood sugar. Others avoid potatoes because they come from the nightshade family and can wreak havoc on anyone fighting autoimmune disease (source 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

So for me, parsnips are a WONDERFUL potato alternative.

Learn to use parsnips which are not carrots theyre actually better as a sub for potatoes if you know how to do it

How To Use Parsnips

  • In my local Kroger, parsnips are kept in the refrigerated section of the store. Likewise, keep them in your refrigerator at home.
  • While parsnips don’t store quite as long or as well as carrots, they will definitely keep a week or two in the fridge.
  • In our American mindset, bigger is always better. But this isn’t true when it comes to parsnips. Bigger = woodier, chewier. And not in a good way. (My mind totally just a Chewbacca meme of “Friends don’t let friends buy chewy parsnips.” There’s too much Star Wars in my house.) 
  • So do Chewbacca a favor. Pass up the super fat parsnips. Look for slender, skinnier ones.
  • While you can eat parsnips raw (like carrots), I prefer to eat mine cooked.
  • Peeling your parsnips is entirely optional, though I do recommend giving them a good scrub.
  • Parsnips can be roasted, pan fried, boiled, mashed, cooked, stir fried, raw in salads, baked… pretty much anything imaginable. I once had a friend make me a Parsnip Au Gratin (instead of Potato Au Gratin). It was delicious.

Coring Parsnips

Now here’s something fun you may not have known. To achieve the most tender results, you can actually CORE your parsnips. (This is great for anyone who DIDN’T listen to Chewbacca. Ahem.)

1. Give your parsnips a good scrub.

2. Cut the parsnip in half, separating the slender end from the fatter head.

How to core a parsnip to keep it tender

3. Stand the fatter head on end, and slice around the core (you’ll notice it is a colored ring) – creating match-sticks. Dice or use as sticks (or however your recipe calls for it).

Coring a parsnip gets the toughest part out

Personally I love to use parsnips in stews that call for potatoes. Or you can make your own Baked Parsnip Fries — use a crinkle cutter to make the fun shapes! Note from Katie – you’ll notice by the lack of holes in the center that my “fries” aren’t cored. I had no idea that one should core a parsnip until today! They always turn out edible, but they are very hard to get the crinkle cutter through. Perhaps next time I’ll use Bethany’s method! The pic below shows a dusting of dried dill weed on top, by the way. Many spices work great with parsnips!

Baked Parsnip Cottage Fries

A Weird Fact About Parsnips

The parsnip ROOT is absolutely delicious, yummy, and safe. But parsnip LEAVES have compounds built into them that can cause irritation.

I asked my local farming friend if she ever had plans to grow them (because we both love them), and what she said surprised me. Apparently if water (like morning dew) gets onto the leaves and then brushes onto your arm – and if THIS gets exposed to sunlight – it can cause welts or burns onto your arm. Because she homesteads with her kids, it’s not worth the risk or hassle to her.

Wild parsnips – which can look like Queen Anne’s Lace – also can cause burns. You’ll see this pop up in the news from time to time.

So, unless you’re a plant or garden expert, I suggest just enjoying the parsnips from the produce section of your grocery store. 😉

But please don’t let this little bit of information scare you. Parsnip roots are delicious, safe, nutritious, and totally worth buying.

Cooking Ideas

What do you do with a parsnip make fries

Here’s a list of ideas to get you started:

Check out the other weird veggies in this series: rutabagas & kohlrabi.

So, who’s going to go out and try some parsnips this week? Is this your first time using parsnips or are you a Parsnip Pro? What’s your favorite way to serve parsnips? Tell us in the comments below!
What can I do with parsnips Those Weird Veggies Series easy ideas from salads to soups to fries
Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

21 thoughts on “{Series: Those Weird Veggies} Everything you Didn’t Know to Ask About Parsnips”

    1. Ive never cored them either and they are super yummy. Love them. And beets, turnips, rutabagas…sigh. Plantains are even good. I need to eat lowcarb n these starchy vegs just t.e.a.s.e. me :/
      I could eat no grains pretty easy with all the delicious tubers we have to enjoy!

  1. Our family loves parsnips, roasted is our favourite. Last spring we set up a vege garden to help get the kids more interested in vegetables, thanks to your blog we will not be planting parsnips! Great information so thanks for that!

    As a kid I grew up on mashed carrot and parsnip (with butter) in winter. I hated it back then but as an adult its delicious!

  2. Oh man. I LOVE parsnips!!! I love roasting them with other veggies or using them as a substitute for fries or mashed potatoes. They are definitely one of my favorite veggies. Wish they were cheaper, though.

  3. Thank you for this series! I’m so excited! Please tell me you’re going to talk about kohlrabi and jicama.

  4. Hi. This is more about growing them than eating them. We live in New Zealand and they are a very commonly grown and eaten veggie over here and I don’t think I have ever heard of anyone having a reaction to them, although I am absolutely not saying that can’t/won’t happen, just that I suspect it may not be a very common thing to have happen in a household garden – maybe more with people that work with them all the time, such as market gardeners etc where they are out early working when it is wet and handling them a lot? I would hate for anyone to be put off growing them because of this, over here it is their propensity for being finicky to get to germinate that puts people off, although that is often solved by using fresh seed, soaking for a short while before planting and covering with a board till germinated (to keep moisture in the soil, they like it damp!). Thanks.

  5. That’s funny about the parsnip leaves. If I remember right, the big sister in Phineas and Ferb would swell up whenever she came into contact with wild parsnips. I always assumed they’d just picked a random veggie to have her be allergic to, but it sounds like it is a legit concern.

    Try deep frying parsnips to make chips. Do it until they are golden brown and immediately sprinkle with sea salt. So very good. Its my favorite way to eat parsnips by far!

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Rebecca – ha! Who knew Phineas and Ferb were on to something? (And your parsnip idea sounds DELICIOUS.)

  6. I had no idea that parsnips were an unusual vegetable until my brother had dinner with me one night. I had made a vegetable stew. He asked how I knew he liked parsnips. What? Who doesn’t like parsnips? He said he didn’t anyone else who eats them. I thought that was weird. I love their sweet taste. I hear they make great latkes although I haven’t tried it.

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      I love the sweeter taste, too (although it takes a few tastes to expect them because it’s so easy to think “potato” or “carrot”). I’m glad parsnips weren’t ‘weird’ to you, MPaula. 🙂 What’s your favorite way to use them?

  7. Post one and I’m in love. As a gardener I always want to grow the “weird” vegetables. This has already given me inspiration to put them in the ground even despite the risk. Can’t wait until the next post.

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Aw, that makes me so happy to hear, Rachael! I’m super excited about this series, too. 🙂 Happy parsnip growing!

  8. When I was young my one grandmother always put them in soup.
    I definitely didn’t like the taste of them.
    Then in my twenties, a friend’s mother (she was a Brit…Brit’s love parsnips) showed me how to cut them into sticks and bake them like a fry. This brings out the sweetness in them.
    I have loved them ever since.

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Charlie – My daughter hates when I put them in soup, too. I think she misses nightshades even more than I do. 🙂 But we both love them as baked fries. I didn’t know that Brit’s loved parsnips. I’ll have to ask some of my English friends for their recipes!

  9. Beth @ Turn2theSimple

    Thank you! I will have to try parsnips! My husband is nightshade-free so at home I always cook nightshade-free. Millet works OK as a side instead of potatoes (think under a meat/gravy sauce) but would love to have something to put in a soup!

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Beth – I’m so glad this gives you a non-nightshade option!!! We’re now a nightshade-free home and I can’t describe the relief of having a tasty vegetable option that is so versatile. (And when you do try them, you’ll have to report back!)

  10. I tried parsnips once. I made a recipe for chicken pot pie with them in it. They tasted really weird to me — almost chemical-like. I’ve been afraid to try them again. Do you think that maybe I just got some “bad”/old ones? Otherwise, I’d like to start cooking them more often.

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      That’s a really great question, Karen. First, parsnips definitely have a distinct taste. If your mouth is expecting potato, you will be disappointed! I’m wondering if your parsnips may have indeed been old OR were contrasting with your pot pie flavors in a weird combination. I would try roasting them (or even trying one raw) and see how it tastes. I have found, too, that sometimes taking a taste of something 7-10x can help your tastebuds re-orient.

    2. They can be kind of bitter & a little odd if you are not used to them. If you boil them it might make them milder. If you bake or broil if you are able to eat butter or also maybe a little honey it can make them more palatable. I treat them sort of like sweet potatoes. I only eat them occasionally. They do have a med amount of salicylate if that is an issue for you.

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