Season for Parsnips October - March
Parsnips are like albino carrots, and the two are in fact related. But they take their name from the turnip of which they also resemble. Though parsnips haven't become an American favorite, they share characteristics with two of our mainstays - the carrot as we mentioned and the potato. Actually, this creamy root was much more popular before the potato was introduced, after which they seemed to fall by the wayside. But the sweet, starchy and delicate flavors and texture of the parsnip make it deserving of a spot in any cook's kitchen.
How to Buy and Store Parsnips
For the best flavor, choose your parsnips for their small to medium size (akin to the size of a large carrot), with firm unblemished skin. The really large specimens - while aesthetically pleasing - can have tough woody cores. If the leaves are still attached, look for those that are bright green and fresh. Avoid limp, shriveled or spotted parsnips, as this means they are well past their prime. Store raw parsnips wrapped in your refrigerator where they will keep for up to three weeks. After you've cooked them though, be sure to eat those leftovers within a couple of days... which shouldn't pose a problem.
How to Cook Parsnips
While we rarely do it, parsnips can be enjoyed raw. Give it a try; simply peel your parsnip (though not necessary, a nice scrub will do!), shred it as you would a carrot and add it to your salad - a nice burst of taste, texture and nutrition. In terms of cooking, parsnips run the gamut of possibilities. They can be roaste, boiled, sautéed and steamed, a good rule of thumb being; if you can do it with a potato, you can do it with a parsnip, interchangeably. They can also be used as a thickener in stews, soups and casseroles, with the option of extracting the parsnip from the final dish if you're not a huge fan.
Health Benefits of Parsnips
The parsnip manages to be sweet and satisfying without being loaded with calories. And while not rife with beta carotene like its cousin, the parsnip boasts an impressive nutritional profile all its own. They are an excellent source of soluble fiber that helps lower cholesterol and keep blood sugar stable, also aided by the potassium they contain. You'll find folic acid all throughout a parsnip which keeps the heart healthy and may help prevent dementia and osteoporosis bone fractures. Calcium, vitamin C, B1, B2, and B3, iron, and zinc all make appearances in this winning veggie.
Why Buy Natural and Organic Parsnips
Like carrots, parsnips are grown conventionally with a myriad of chemicals and pesticides. And even if you were to peel them, there's no guarantee pesticides won't be found on the inside. Just as they do with nutrients, the roots can absorb the chemicals from the soil and integrate them into the whole of the plant. Plus, you lose much of the health benefits associated with this deliciously sweet root when you consume them without skin. Your best bet - for your health, the health of your family and the health of the planet - is to purchase your parsnips organically and locally if you can, and then enjoy those skins!