Introduction to Parsnips

How to Buy, Store, and Use This Root Vegetable

Parsnips With Greens Attached
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Parsnips may look like fat white carrots, but they are, despite what some blow-hards may insist, their vegetable. They are not the tasty, crunchy raw snacks that carrots can be, but their nutty taste is delicious added to roasts, soups, and stews.

When Parsnips Are in Season

Parsnips are primarily harvested in the fall and available from storage through the winter. Cold helps convert their starch into sugar, so a later harvest or long cold storage, far from being a detriment, can sweeten up these creamy white wonders in a most delicious fashion.

How to Buy and Store Parsnips

Look for bright, very firm, relatively smooth parsnips. They should, like most fruits and vegetables, feel heavy for their size. This tip is particularly important when choosing parsnips since they can get dried out or turn extra woody if not properly stored.

If you're lucky enough to buy parsnips with their greens still attached, the greens should look fresh and moist. Remove the greens when you get them home for more extended storage.

Store the parsnips chilled and loosely wrapped in plastic. Fresh parsnips will last a week or two adequately stored.

How to Cook Parsnips

Parsnips have a great, distinctly nutty flavor. Like carrots, they can be scrubbed and eaten with their peel but will have a more tender, uniform texture if you take the time to peel them.

All except the very youngest and thinnest of parsnips will have a pretty woody core. The best way to mitigate the effect of this is to cut parsnips into quarters lengthwise and then cut out and discard the core—it is darker and easily distinguishable from the tender part you want to eat. 

When cooked until tender parsnips have a lovely, starchy texture that works beautifully roasted or added to soups and stews. Add parsnips the same way you would add carrots or potatoes to stews, knowing that they'll have a nuttier flavor than carrots and a sweeter, more distinctive, and less starchy flavor than potatoes.

Know, too, that parsnips pair particularly well with other root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, celery root, and turnips. Some like to cut them into chunks (removing the woody core, of course) and cook them along with potatoes when making mashed potatoes to add a slightly nutty edge.