As the days turn colder, thoughts turn to warming stews and casseroles full of comforting root veg. One root you’re bound to find in your box over the coming weeks and months is parsnip. Parsnips are only grown as a significant commercial crop in the UK. The French are particularly dismissive of them and use ‘le panais’ (parsnip) as an insult. But we think they are missing out. Our first crop is often ready by September but we wait until the temperature drops to start harvesting; the cold weather causes some of the starch in the root to convert to sugar, giving fantastic flavour.
storage and preparation
Parsnips can lose moisture fairly soon after harvesting so we try not to wash them. If you keep some mud on (if you can cope with it) and avoid washing them before storing, you should find that they will keep for a couple of weeks in a cool vegetable rack or the bottom of your fridge. Don’t worry if they go a bit rubbery; it won’t affect the flavour. When you’re ready to eat them, soak the parsnips in water for a few minutes to soften the mud before peeling or scrubbing.
Parsnip’s sweet earthy flavour is great in all sorts of dishes. It’s a very good choice for thrifty cooking; add to soups or use to bulk out stews and curries. For a tasty new take on roasted parsnips for your Sunday lunch, parboil them then roll in flour and parmesan before roasting to add extra flavour and crunch. You could also add parsnips to any mixture of other root veg for roasting. Just cut into chunks and put in a roasting tray with hot olive oil, unpeeled garlic cloves and chopped herbs. Season and roast at 180°C for about an hour, turning a couple of times, until tender and slightly caramelised. Another idea is to toss cooked roast parsnips with a little harissa paste and drizzle over some seasoned yoghurt and chopped parsley. If you’re struggling to get children to eat parsnips and other root vegetables, have a go at homemade crisps. Just peel the roots and cut into very thin slices along the lengths. Deep fry in sunflower oil until crisp, drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with a little salt. If you need more inspiration, there are lots more recipes on the website or you can call us for ideas.