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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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).
Personally I love to use parsnips in stews that call for potatoes. Or you can make your own Baked Parsnip Fries from this Kitchen Stewardship Recipe on Plan to Eat — 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!
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.
Here’s a list of ideas to get you started:
- Parsnip Baked Cottage Fries
- Creamy Whipped Parsnips
- Roasted Garlic, Parsnip, and White Bean Soup
- Parsnip Pizza Crust (Grain-Free)
- Parsnip Carrot Lentil Soup
- Parsnip Noodles
- Golden Carrot & Parsnip Soup
- Parsnips Au Gratin
Click for all the “Those Weird Veggies Series” posts.