|Pastinaca sativa |
UsesUntil the potato arrived from the New World, its place in dishes was occupied by the parsnip and other root vegetables such as the turnip. While parsnips can be eaten raw, they are more commonly served cooked. Parsnips can be boiled, roasted or used in stews, soups and casseroles. In some cases, the parsnip is boiled and the solid portions are removed from the soup or stew, leaving behind a more subtle flavor than the whole root and contributing starch to thicken the dish. Roasted parsnip is considered an essential part of Christmas dinner in some parts of the English-speaking world and frequently features in the traditional Sunday Roast. Parsnips can also be fried or made into crisps.
The parsnip originated in the Mediterranean region and originally was the size of a baby carrot when fully grown. When the Roman Empire expanded north through Europe, the Romans brought the parsnip with them. They found that the parsnip grew bigger the farther north they went.
Seeds can be planted in early spring, as soon as the ground can be worked. Harvesting can begin in late fall after the first frost, and continue through winter until the ground freezes over.
More than almost any other vegetable seed, parsnip seed significantly deteriorates in viability if stored for long, so it is advisable to use fresh seed each year.
In Roman times, parsnips were believed to be an aphrodisiac.
In the United States, this plant was introduced fairly early in history by British colonists as a root vegetable. In the mid-19th century, it was replaced in popularity by the potato and consequently escaped from cultivation. Today, most states have wild parsnip on their list of noxious weeds or invasive species, especially because the upper part of the wild parsnip contains a chemical which can cause severe skin burns in the presence of sunlight.. The root of the wild parsnip is edible.
Parsnip is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, including its namesake, the Parsnip swallowtail and also the Common Swift, Garden Dart, and Ghost Moth.