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A plant of the genus Pastinaca, of which one species (P. edulis), the common parsnip, has a white, spindle-shaped root; of a pleasant aromatic flavor, much used for food; also, the root itself. — Webster, 1882

parsnipHow to Grow Parsnips in the Garden.
Parsnips (Pastinaca sativa) require a cool, very rich soil and a long growing season of 120 days or more in order to grow well. Sow the seeds as early in the spring as the ground can be worked; always use fresh seeds, as parsnip seeds lose vitality after a year or two. The seeds are tiny and can take anywhere from ten days to six weeks to germinate! For this reason, many gardeners sow radishes in the same row as parsnips; the radishes are harvested before interfering with the parsnip roots. Parsnips do best in a loose, sandy soil. Avoid manure, as this will cause the roots to fork. Plant several seeds together along the row and thin to one seedling per 6-8 inches in the row when growing nicely. One ounce of seed will plant 200-250 feet. A good crop will yield 500-600 bushels per acre for farmers growing parsnips to sell.

The roots are harvested in the fall and stored in the cellar, or they can be left in the ground over the winter, as even a hard freeze doesn’t injure them. In fact, some say that parsnips taste better if they are exposed to freezing temperatures, a fact which makes them less suitable for the southern garden than those in the north. Cold intensifies the flavor of parsnips and converts some of their starch to sugar.

The parsnip makes a long, cylindrical, tapering root. Good parsnips should be about a foot long, creamy white in color, and straight and clean. The root tapers very slowly after the first few inches in depth. A native of Europe, parsnips are related to the carrot, celery, and parsley. Parsnip is biennial; the flower-stalks arise from roots that were produced the previous year. Left in the ground, parsnips can become weedy and take over a field. — Some information taken from Liberty Hyde Bailey’s The Principles of Vegetable Gardening (London: MacMillian & Co., 1917).

Recipes for Cooking Parsnips.
parsnipAlthough parsnips were said to be grown by the Wilders and served – fried – at Christmas dinner in Farmer Boy (see Chapter 26, “Christmas”), they were largely raised for feeding cattle. Because parsnips can be woody and tough, they are usually boiled in salted water until tender, then they can be mashed, baked in a sauce, or fried. Parsnips are sometimes combined with mashed potatoes and/or mashed turnips. They taste similar to carrots, but with a hint of starchy potato flavor; many describe parships as having a mild “banana” flavor.

Fricassee Parsnips. Cut the parsnips in chunks about two inches square, or as near square as convenient, boil until tender in salted water, skim them out, and brown gently in butter; when nearly brown, dust over them some flour, and let it brown, but not burn. Take them from the pan, and add to the butter a little of the water in which they were boiled; if there is not sufficient butter in the pan to form a gravy, add more; if not as thick as brown gravies usually are, add a little flour mixed, free from lumps, in a very little of the water from the parsnips, stir it in, and pour the gravy over them. — Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine LXXXII (April 1870), 375.

fried parsnips Fried Parsnips. Boil tender in a little hot water salted; scrape, cut into long slices, dredge with flour; fry in hot lard or drippings, or in butter and lard mixed. Fry quite brown. Drain off fat and serve. — Mrs. Fanny L. Gillette, White House Cook Book (Chicago: R.S. Peale & Company,1887), 180.

Fried Parsnips. Boil them tender; when they are cool, slice them lengthwise, and fry them with some thin slices of boiled salt pork. Put in the parsnips when the fat is hot, pepper them, brown them on both sides; crisp the pork, and serve with them. — Jane Cunningham Croly, Jennie June’s American Cookery Book (New York: The American News Co., 1870), 136.

Parsnip Balls. Mash one pint of boiled parsnips. Add two table-spoonfuls of butter, one heaping teaspoonful of salt, a little pepper, two table-spoonfuls of cream or milk and one beaten egg. Mix all the ingredients except the egg. Stir on the fire until the mixture bubbles; then add the egg, and set away to cool. When cold, make into balls one-third the size of an egg. Dip them in beaten egg and in crumbs. Put in the frying basket and plunge into boiling fat. Cook until a rich brown. To escallop, prepare the parsnips as for the balls, omitting the egg. Turn into a buttered dish, cover with crumbs, dot with butter, and brown in the oven. — Maria Parloa, Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book (New York: C.T. Dillingham, 1882), 249-250.

Parsnip Fritters. Wash parsnips and cook forty-five minutes in boiling salted water. Drain, plunge into cold water, when skins will be found to slip off easily. Mash, season with butter, salt, and pepper, shape into small flat round cakes, roll in flour, and sauté in butter. — Fannie Farmer, The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1896), 266.


parsnip (FB 20)
     fried (FB 26)