In Season: Parsnips
By Noel Daniel
The parsnip, a relative of the carrot, is a long, sweet root vegetable with a lengthy history. Cultivated since the days of Ancient Rome, parsnips have served as food as well as being utilized as a sweetener in Europe. Aside from being tasty, parsnips can be a healthy addition to your root vegetable repertoire. Parsnips are high in potassium, antioxidants, and fiber—making them an ideal side dish for anyone who’s health-conscious heading into the new year.
These days, parsnips are largely used as pig feed in Italy, but in Ancient Roman times, parsnips were given to Roman Emperors as a tribute. It was viewed as an aphrodisiac in Rome, and used as a sweetener throughout Europe until the colonization of the Americas brought sugarcane to the Old World. Perhaps because of its abundant vitamins and minerals, the root of the parsnip is also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Although not as popular in America as other root vegetables and tubers, such as potatoes or carrots, parsnips are still a popular food in England. There, parsnips are eaten alongside roasts and holiday dinners. Parsnips can be roasted, baked, boiled, fried, pureed, or even eaten raw. Sweet and starchy, they’re also a great addition to stews and soups. In addition, parsnips can be sliced thin and turned into chips, or made into a lightly sweet wine. Just watch out for the stems of the parsnips! The stems and leaves can leave chemical burns on bare skin, similar in effect to poison ivy. Despite the toxicity of the stem, leaves, and sap of the plant, the root is entirely safe to eat, even raw.
Parsnip & Maple Syrup Cupcakes
¾ cup of butter, plus extra to grease tins
1 ¼ cup of light brown sugar
½ cup and 2 Tbsp maple syrup
3 large eggs
2 cups self-rising flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup peeled, grated parsnip 1 medium sized apple, peeled,
cored and grated
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1 small orange, zest and juice
- Preheat oven to 350F and grease muffin tins, or line with baking cups. In a saucepan, gently melt the butter and whisk in your sugar and maple syrup until combined. Allow the mixture to cool slightly before whisking in eggs. In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice.
- Add your dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture, stirring until just combined. Then, add the parsnip, apple, pecan pieces, and the orange juice and zest. Pour the mixture into the muffin tins, filling each cup about two-thirds of the way full. Bake until cupcakes are firm, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Allow cupcakes to cool, and then top with cream cheese frosting. If desired, garnish cupcakes with roasted pecans or candied orange peel.
Pea & Parsnip Soup
3 cups peeled, sliced parsnip
1 large onion, roughly chopped 3 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1 quart vegetable stock
5 cups frozen peas
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary 3 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
- In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and add your onion and garlic. Fry, stirring occasionally until onion grows soft and translucent. Add the rosemary, and continue to fry for approximately one minute more, until aromatic.
- Add the parsnip slides, and then pour in the vegetable stock and bring it to a boil before covering. On medium heat, cook 15-30 minutes, until parsnips become tender. Then, add two-thirds of the frozen peas, reserving the other third. Allow soup to boil for 8 more minutes.
- Using an immersion blender, or by pouring soup into a regular blender in batches, puree the vegetables until smooth. Adjust consistency to preference by allowing soup to simmer if too thin, or by adding a splash of water or stock if soup is too thick. Add salt and pepper as desired.
- Once ideal texture is achieved, add the rest of the peas and allow to cook on medium heat for 8 more minutes, until peas are fully cooked. Serve with a hearty piece of bread and enjoy.