So you’re browsing in the produce section of your local market, and your wandering glance falls upon a small bin of pale, fat, irregularly-shaped roots. You peer at the label—“parsnips.” Hmmm. You accost the nearest produce guy and pepper him with questions: How do you cook this? What does it taste like? Is it any good? You’re likely to be met with a shrug of the shoulders and a slightly sheepish smile that says, “Heck if I know.”
Parsnips are definitely the unsung and largely ignored sibling of their clan. Sure, you know the other family members well—carrots, celery, parsley, even fennel. But the poor parsnip? Overlooked and shunned.
Well it’s time to turn pity into passion and embark on a discovery of this tasty root. The Romans knew its glories; they not only cultivated it at home, they also carried it with them as they expanded northward. In the process, they discovered that parsnips thrived in those colder European climes.
A delicate, sweet flavor and intriguing texture isn’t all that the parsnip has to offer. Its nutritional profile is impressive as well. Nutritionally speaking, parsnips contain:
Then … experiment! Shred raw parsnips into a chopped salad; slow-cook them in a veggie and bean stew; purée them in split pea soup. Or try one of the easy recipes on the following page. You’re gonna love ’em—trust me.
Roasted Parsnip & Carrot Purée
A gluten-free side dish that pairs well with slow-cooked short ribs or chicken stew.
2 lbs. parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 lbs. carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large shallots, peeled and quartered
1 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
3 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tsp. microplaned orange zest
per serving: 227 cal; 3g pro; 8g total fat (1g sat fat); 40g carb; 0mg chol; 108mg sod; 11g fiber; 15g sugars
Parsnip, Red Onion, & Gruyère Scramble
Gluten-free and relatively low in carbs, this filling brunch dish will warm you up on a cool morning.
1 large parsnip (about 1/2 lbs.), peeled and diced
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup frozen peas, defrosted
6 whole eggs plus 4 egg whites, beaten
1/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese
2 Tbs. chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
per serving: 232 cal; 16g pro; 13g total fat (4g sat fat); 12g carb; 286mg chol; 190mg sod; 3g fiber; 3g sugars
Neil Zevnik is a private chef in Los Angeles who is devoted to the idea that "healthy" doesn't have to mean "ho-hum." Visit him online at neilzevnik.com to learn more.
If you’re thinking of growing your own parsnips—after all, they attract several species of nbutterflies—you might want to think again. While the root is perfectly benign, the stems and leaves contain a photosensitive chemical that produces redness, burning, and even blisters when it comes in contact with bare skin. That’s why, although you can often find carrots in the market with their feathery tops still attached, parsnip stems are always removed at stores.