Parsnips: Packing a nutritional punch

This often overlooked vegetable brings a sweet nutty taste to the table.

As a member of the carrot family, Michigan parsnips are often an under-appreciated vegetable. One of the best characteristics about parsnips is their distinct sweet, nutty taste (similar to carrots). Generally, the peak season for parsnips is September and October in Michigan. This is when grocery stores and farmer’s markets will have the best price as well.

Parsnips contain many positive health benefits. The high fiber content of parsnips may help maintain regularity and reduce blood cholesterol levels. Parsnips also provide potassium and vitamin C and B6/Folate. They also boast anti-inflammatory properties and anti-fungal properties as well.

Structurally, parsnips do resemble carrots, but have a sweeter taste when they are cooked. The longer parsnips remain in the ground during frost and cooler climates, the sweeter they become. At the grocery store or farmer’s market this fall, look for small- and medium-width roots for the best flavor and texture. Larger roots tend to have a woody texture and are more fibrous.

The best way to store parsnips is by placing them in a cold, moist area in the refrigerator. To help maintain the humidity, place parsnips in a plastic bag, or unbagged in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator. Remove excess water and moisture before storing if it is necessary to wash the parsnips prior to refrigeration. This method will keep parsnips safely in the refrigerator for 2-6 months.

To prepare parsnips for cooking, be sure to wash them thoroughly prior to use. Next, chop off the top (where the stem and root meet) and the end (tip) of the parsnip. Lightly peel the outer layer away and cut them into a preferred shape and size.

One of the most common ways to eat parsnips is in stews, soups and casseroles. They can be baked, boiled, pureed, roasted, fried or steamed. Parsnips can be eaten raw, but they become sweeter when cooked. Please see the recipe below for an easy way to try parsnips.

Michigan produce, like parsnips, will provide consumers with many options for fresh and healthy food. Michigan State University Extension has prepared several fact sheets on the Michigan Fresh site to assist consumers with their selection, use and preservation of the many healthy choices available. The parsnips fact sheet is just one example. A home growing tip sheet is also available for parsnips.

Healthy recipes for parsnips are readily available on the internet. One recipe site that is particularly useful is the USDA recipe finder. Simply enter the ingredient in the search function and nutritious recipes that include that ingredient will pop up. Also included in the results are the nutrition values and costs associated with the recipe. This site will also assist in creating a shopping list based on the recipes selected.

Baked Parsnip Fries with Rosemary Recipe

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix parsnips, chopped rosemary, garlic and oil on baking sheet.
  2. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.
  3. Spread out evenly onto baking sheet.