parsnipsIt’s a new year, a new beginning and another chance to celebrate delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables. This year, we will be stepping beyond the borders of Vermont as we take a monthly trip around the world to explore gastronomic diversity through the harvest of the month. We will see how the harvest is used in different cuisines, broadening our horizons and encouraging the use of new cooking techniques, recipes and flavor combinations.

Our first stop is the United Kingdom where the use of root vegetables – like this month’s harvest, parsnips – is often an essential component of the cuisine.

Parsnips are thought to be native to the Mediterranean region and were actually the main starchy vegetable in the area through the Dark and Middle ages in addition to be used as a sweetener prior to the arrival of cane sugar. Parsnips have been traditionally used in the UK and Western European cuisine for many reasons including their affordability and heartiness in addition to their sweet, but also somewhat spicy flavor. The widespread use of parsnips in the UK was impacted by the introduction of the potato in the 18th century by Spaniards returning to Europe from South America. However, they have remained a staple root vegetable and are used in many classic dishes.

Parsnips are considered to be an important part of traditional Christmas or Sunday roast dinner in the UK. Parsnips can be boiled or baked and mashed and served in place of potatoes as a side dish. They are also used with other root vegetables in many staple foods in the UK including hearty soups and stews, rich meat pies and savory casseroles. Although they are not typically the star of many dishes, they do provide wonderful flavor and sustenance as well as a boost of fiber, B vitamins and vitamin C.

In this month’s recipe parsnips are the main attraction with some help from honey, spicy Dijon mustard and lemony thyme. The recipe is a breeze to prepare as the parsnips are simply chopped and tossed with the remaining ingredients before being roasted quickly in a 400 degree oven. This dish would be a perfect side for roasted meat such as chicken or beef or could be prepared and mixed with a whole grain and other vegetables for a hearty vegetarian meal. Leftovers could easily be served as part of a cold salad or added to a soup or stew right before serving for added flavor and nutrition.

For more on parsnips (and other delicious vegetables) including recipes, factoids, and fun activities for kids, check out the Vermont Harvest of the Month website:

Bridget Shea, RD, is a clinical dietitian at The University of Vermont Medical Center.

Honey and Dijon Roasted Parsnips with Fresh Thyme

  • 2lbpounds of parsnips
  • 4Tbspolive oil
  • 4Tbsphoney
  • 2Tbspwhole grain mustard
  • 1Tbspfresh thyme, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  2. Cut the parsnips in half length wise, then slice 1/4 inch thick.
  3. Add the parsnips to a large bowl with the remaining ingredients and toss to coat evenly.
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