Once used as a sweetener, the parsnip is a delightfully sweet fall root vegetable.
The parsnip’s history quickly muddles with that of the carrot, seeing as they were both native Eurasian root crops with similar uses, and carrots back then were usually white or purple. Today carrots have become the much more popular vegetable, though parsnips can be used interchangeably for carrots in almost any recipe, offering a sweeter, creamier alternative. Try parsnips simply roasted or add them to a fall vegetable soup.
The name “parsnip” is sometimes thought to be a combination of the words parsley and turnip, since parsnip leaves resemble large parsley leaves and the parsnip root looks like a type of turnip. However, the root word comes from Latin, meaning “fork”, making the parsnip the “fork turnip.” Perfect for digging your fork into!
When cooking with parsnips, don’t peel them if you can avoid it. Most of the vitamins and minerals are found near the skin; removing it takes away much of a parsnip’s nutritive value. Parsnips that have been overwintered (left in the ground during frosty months) will taste sweeter because part of the plant’s starch gets converted to sugar in the cold.
Unwashed parsnips store well, for several months, in a cool (38-40 degrees), humid place. Try the drawer in your refrigerator or a cold garage or basement.