This month’s harvest is a perfect vegetable to include in winter’s hot and comforting meals – parsnips. They provide a good dose of vitamin C, folate and potassium along with some fiber, calcium and magnesium.
Parsnips are a member of the carrot family and closely resemble them in shape, size and texture. Differences include their color – off-white – and taste – think carrots with a bit more sweetness and spice. In fact, until the 19th century when they were replaced by the sugar beet, parsnips were used as a sweetener in Europe when honey was expensive and sugar was difficult to procure.
Parsnips are great for storing over the winter because they are a hearty root vegetable. They can be harvested in the fall or early winter and be stored or can be left in the ground over the winter and harvested in the spring. So-called ‘spring parsnips’ have an even sweeter flavor because many of their starches are converted to sugars during the long and cold winter.
If you don’t grow them yourself, select parsnips at the grocery store or farmer’s market that are firm and white, avoiding soft spots or discolorations. The whiter they are, the sweeter they will taste. Like carrots, smaller roots are often sweeter and less woody. Try to find parsnips with the entire root intact because they will stay fresh longer. When you bring them home, seal them in a plastic bag and place them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator, unless of course you have a root cellar!
How to Cook With Parsnips
Parsnips, like most root vegetables, often taste best when roasted because it brings out their sweetness and intensifies their flavor. A quick and easy way to prepare them is chopped into ~1 inch pieces, tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper and a sprinkle of dried herbs de Provence and roasted in the oven.
For some beautiful color and more complex flavor, mix the chopped parsnips with carrots, beets, sweet potatoes or any other root vegetables. Parsnips are also delicious steamed or roasted and then pureed or mashed like potatoes. Parsnips are a great in soups, stews and even chicken pot pie. They can be grated and eaten raw on a salad or in a hummus and vegetable wrap. For an interesting way to use parsnips (and other root vegetables), look up a recipe for Bubble and Squeak – a traditional British dish of pan-fried leftover vegetables including potatoes and cabbage from a Sunday roast dinner.
This month’s recipe features roasted parsnips bathed in honey and orange. The dish will hit all your taste buds with a variety of flavors coming together. The salty and savory soy and the bright punch of the orange zest combine well with the sweetness of the honey and roasted parsnips. This recipe is a quick and easy preparation of parsnips that will make you eager to try others!
For more on Parsnips including recipes and fun facts, check out the Vermont Harvest of the Month’s website.
Roasted Parsnips with Soy, Honey & Orange
- 1lbparsnips, peeled and halved
- 3Tbspolive oil
- salt and pepper to taste, if desired
- 1Tbspreduced sodium dark soy sauce
- 1orange (juice and zest)
- Preheat over to 400 degrees. Pour oil into a roasting pan and put in oven to heat.
- Add parsnips to hot oil, season with salt and pepper if desired. Roast for 20 minutes.
- Mix honey, soy, and orange juice and zest, add to parsnips, tossing to coat.
- Return to oven and roast for another 10 minutes until caramelized (browned).
Bridget Shea, RD, is a clinical dietician at The University of Vermont Medical Center.