Parsnips are the ultimate winter food: they store well, have a unique flavour, and with a lower water content than their cousin the carrot, are well-suited to roasting, mashing, and baking.
People get unreasonably excited about parsnips, and that’s great! I’m not one of those people. That doesn’t mean I don’t eat them, it just means I don’t LOVE them. I tend to add them in with mashed potatoes, in potato latkes (to which I nearly ALWAYS add other root veggies like beets, celeriac, turnip, etc), or mixed in with cooked carrots or the one-dish “Root Vegetable Roast” that is such a staple for us in winter (chop root veggies and onions, garlic, and leeks into equal sized pieces, toss with olive oil and herbs and spices, roast at 400*C until tender).
I avoid adding them to soups unless the recipe calls for it or I think they would complement the flavours: an out of place parnsip flavour can be disconcerting, to me at least.
Season: Parsnips need a good frost to bring out their sweetness, and so they aren’t typically ready until late September. We don’t grow a lot of them because they are very hard to dig and we are very busy at the end of the season when they are ready!
Parsnips are in the same vegetable family as carrots, cilantro, dill, parsley, celery, celeriac – the Apiaceae family. What a wide array of relatives the parsnip has, but the one thing they do all have in common is that they are very flavourful. Parsnips have a hard-to-define spicy/herby/sweetness to them, and are in my class of “Vegetables that add so much flavour to your dish your guests will be Wowed”. Parsnips are great on their own pureed, mashed, boiled, steamed, or roasted. When I make them, I like to sautee them in butter and brown sugar/honey/maple syrup until the sugar starts to caramelize and they get a bit crispy on the outside (Tip: use a cast iron pan). They’re also great added in with mashed potatoes, just like how I suggest serving celeriac to many market shoppers and Veggie Lovers (I had one shopper this week who was looking for veggies to “hide” in potatoes so she could get more veggie variety into her kids’ diets… Parsnips and celeriac camouflage well!).
Try this recipe for baked Parsnip Fries! Or, this Maple Parsnip Soup Recipe from my favorite cookbook, Simply in Season. How about Parsnip Hashbrowns for brunch? Or something really different, like this Parsnip Hummus. You can even use them in baking, like this recipe for Parsnip Biscuits with black pepper and honey. The long and short of it is, parsnips are very versatile!
Storage Tips: Parsnips should be stored in the fridge in a plastic bag. Like carrots, they will keep a very long time!