Parsnips are long skinny root vegetables that taper down to one pointy end. That is a short but precise description of parsnips. They are often referred to as the forgotten vegetable because they are overshadowed by their flashier cousins carrots and parsley.
This vegetable is bi-annual and has found its way into the culinary arts for centuries. Parsnips are usually available during the autumn or winter, but farmers do leave them in the ground till winter so they can harvest sweeter parsnips. But if they are left in the ground for too long, they will be rendered inedible.
What do parsnips taste like? Parsnips taste sweet, like carrots. But its sweetness is spicier than that of the carrot. They have a starchy, nutty taste and an earthy flavor that is more pronounced than that of the carrot.
The taste of parsnips can be quite difficult to describe, that is why it is compared to its close cousin, carrot. When you cook parsnips, it becomes sweeter than carrots. But, eating it raw might come with a slightly bitter flavor.
At a glance, parsnips look unassuming. But these root vegetables have a lot to offer. They make a great addition to dishes and have enough nutrients to do the body some good.
Nutritional Benefits of Parsnips
Parsnips have been around for quite a while. We can say over a thousand years because their origin can be traced back to the ancient Greek and Roman empires. Parsnips have enough vitamins, minerals, and other basic nutrients in them. It contains vitamin C, K, E, and B6. It doesn’t lack minerals like zinc, magnesium, thiamine, folate, and phosphorus. It also has a healthy dose of calories, carbs, protein, fiber, and almost zero fat.
Parsnips have a high content of soluble and insoluble fiber. One cup of parsnips contains about 26 percent of the reference daily intake (RDI) for fiber. Fiber adds bulk to what we eat by moving in the gastrointestinal tract undigested. It helps bowel movements and can aid digestion from start to finish. An increased fiber intake can help to fix gastrointestinal related diseases like diverticulitis, intestinal ulcers, and hemorrhoids. It can relieve people with constipation and help them pass still regularly.
Fiber can be responsible for blood sugar levels, a reduction in cholesterol levels, and anti-inflammatory properties. The content of fiber in parsnips combined with low calories makes it perfect for weight loss or control. Fiber moves slowly in the digestive tract, so it takes longer to digest and brings a feeling of fullness.
In an average serving of parsnips, there is about 25 percent worth of the RDI for vitamins C. These make them an immune-boosting vegetable. An inclusion of parsnips in one’s diet can over time help to fight against common illnesses.
Parsnips are also rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are healthy compounds that promote the overall well-being of the human body and protect cells in the body from free radical damage from molecules.
Culinary Uses of Parsnips
Parsnips can be eaten raw because cooking them can reduce their vitamin content. But, there is still enough left over to be of nutritional value. When looking to cook parsnips, select the smaller and skinnier parsnips.
Smaller and skinnier parsnips are easier to cook because thicker and larger parsnips have a larger woodier core that would be harder to get into. Cooking it will take longer and it will be harder to eat. Instead of peeling the parsnips before you cook, you can scrub it thoroughly with a vegetable brush. This would help you preserve the nutrients better.
Parsnips make a great addition to dishes. Not only can you boil them, but you can also roast, or sauté them. During popular holidays like Thanksgiving, you can use parsnips in place of potatoes to break tradition and bring something new to the dining table.
On normal days when there are no special holidays, you can try recipes like roasted parsnips with olives, parsnip spice cake with caramel icing, and potato and parsnip gratin.
If you like to use spices, you can try out the parsnip gratin with cumin, feta, and turmeric. You can also make a vegetarian shepherd’s pie with parsnips, lentils, and mushrooms. Parsnips are sweet, but roasting them brings it out more. The heat caramelizes the sugar and transforms them into something wonderful.
Where are Parsnips Grown? How Do You Procure Them?
Parsnips are native to Eurasia. Archeological evidence for the cultivation of parsnip is pretty limited. Many people refer to ancient Greek and Roman texts to decipher when it was cultivated. But, parsnips bear a physical resemblance to carrots so it is hard to tell which they are referring to.
In Latin, it seems parsnips are known as Pastinaca. The evidence of parsnips can be found in the roman empire. Germans used to pay tribute to Emperor Tiberius with parsnips. Back when sugar cane and beet sugar weren’t available yet, parsnips were held in high esteem.
Parsnip was introduced to North America by French colonists in Canada and the British. If you want to buy parsnips in the present day, they are available all year round in grocery stores or at farmer’s markets.
Do Parsnips Taste Like Potatoes?
The taste of parsnips is not that easy to point out. But, when you bite down into parsnips, it tastes starchy like potatoes. That is the only trait that can be compared with potatoes when it comes to parsnips. In sweetness, you can liken it to a carrot but, it is spicier and has a nutty flavor to it.
Facts You Don’t Know About Parsnips
- The scientific name for parsnips is Pastinaca sativa.
- If the parsnip is left for too long and not harvested on time, the taproot which is the edible part becomes woody and inedible.
- Parsnips can be made into a wine that is similar in taste to Madeira. Madeira is a wine made on the Portuguese Madeira Islands.