Parsnip: The Underrated Root Veggie

Head into your local grocery store, pick up a few parsnips from the produce section, and when you go to pay for your tasty root veggies, it’s likely that the cashier won’t know what you’re purchasing. White carrots?

Modern home chefs don’t cook up too many parsnips today. And it’s no wonder, really. We’re not exposed to them. Do you see parsnips in convenience foods, like packaged ready-to-cook mixed veggies? They’re also absent from processed foods. And spotting parsnips on a restaurant menu isn’t too common, either. With this lack of exposure to out-of-the-norm fruits and veggies, we tend to pass on the less familiar produce items (parsnips? rutabagas? Jicama?) and opt instead for our usual staples.

Not to mention, parsnips aren’t, well, the prettiest vegetables. When it comes to style, these beige underground veggies tend to fall by the wayside next to eye-popping red tomatoes or spring green asparagus. You might even say they’re a bit of an underdog?

Besides diversifying the nutrients you put in your body, parsnips also offer a chance to expand your flavor experience. You’ll miss out if you never give this distinctive earthy veggie a taste.

How to Use Them

While not a mainstay in our culture like the carrots or potatoes they resemble, parsnips can be used much like any other root veggie. For example, you can make parsnip (instead of potato) gratin or mashed parsnips. Or, even parsnip pancakes, which go especially well with meats. Interestingly, parsnips tend to hold together better than potatoes. So for those dishes where you don’t want everything going all mushy, choose a parsnip.

You can roast, boil, sauté and steam parsnips. Roasting them especially brings out their sweet, earthy and slightly nutty taste. You can also add them to sauces, soups and stews for a boost of flavor, and to give the dish a thicker texture. While parsnips aren’t typically eaten raw, you can give it a try. Just peel ‘em like a carrot and then chomp down. Keep in mind they do have a strong, distinct flavor.

Packed with Nutrition

Don’t keep parsnips under wraps; these veggies are chock full of nutrition. They contain complex carbohydrates and fiber, which help lower cholesterol and improve digestive health. These veggies also offer calcium, potassium, folic acid, iron, zinc and B vitamins.

A Few Recipes

Root vegetables absorb nutrients from the soil they grow in, as well as any chemicals from pesticides that may be lingering around. So be sure to choose organic parsnips for these recipes.

Sautéed Kale and Parsnips with Ginger: This recipe from the Pioneer Valley Growers Association, is jam-packed with nutrition. (Although I’d skip the corn oil that the recipe calls for and use olive oil instead.)

Spiced Parsnip Soup: From Organic Authority, this scrumptious soup plays off of this veggie’s natural, nutty flavor.

Parsnip, Mushroom and Leek Gratin: This recipe from EcoSalon makes a delicious side to accompany a vegetarian winter meal.

image: di.wineanddine

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