I don’t know what autumn has been like for you this year, but here in Minnesota the season came and went in one fell swoop – as soon as I finished sneezing through my fall allergies, winter had already arrived at my doorstep. If you were lucky enough to get a fleeting glimpse of sun earlier this week, hopefully you also noticed the beautiful golden red and orange leaves scattered across lawns and walkways.
But let’s not dwell on the rollercoaster that is Minnesota weather. Let’s instead embrace what the season has to offer. Like, say, the best parsnips in the country.
Parsnips are quite possibly the most exciting food on you can find on local shelves right now; we’ve gotten a few overnight frosts under our belt, and they are at their peak. Here’s why: After 2-4 weeks of near-freezing temperatures, the starch converts to sugar, which produces a uniquely nutty, sweet taste. If parsnips do not get harvested before the ground hardens completely, they can also be left to harvest in spring instead – you’re guaranteed a very sweet parsnip if that’s what you choose to do.
Parsnips are members of the umbelliferae family, making them a sibling of carrots, chervil, parsley, fennel, celery, and celeriac. They were often mistaken for carrots in historical records, and were often used in herbal medicine as an aphrodisiac.
Nutritionally, they offer many vitamins and minerals (calcium, potassium, manganese, magnesium, zinc, vitamins B6, C, E, and K, and folate) that improve heart health, enhance digestion, boost immunity, and enhance vision.
Season: autumn – spring
Taste: sweet, nutty, starchy texture when cooked, and earthy
Nutrition: 91% CHO, 5% protein, 4% fat
Volume: moderate to loud (depending on the time of harvest)
Technique: bake, broil, braise, grate, pickle, puree, roast, steam
How to select: smaller, tender parsnips are best for flavor and texture.
Prep: Don’t bother peeling young, small parsnips, rather, scrub to remove any dirt and serve whole.
parsnip + potato + apple
parsnip + garlic + almond
parsnip + squash + thyme + rutabaga
parsnip + curry + yogurt
parsnip + chestnuts + mushroom + Parmesan
parsnip + caramel + walnut
Build your own recipes by using complimentary flavors from these foods:
allspice. APPLES. basil. bay leaf. beans (navy, pinto, black, lima). breadcrumbs. BUTTER. caramel. cardamom. CARROTS. celery. celery root. CHEESE (Parmesan, Asiago). CHIVES. cilantro. CINNAMON. cloves. coconut. coriander. couscous. CREAM. cumin. CURRY. dates. dill. eggs. fennel. GARLIC. GINGER. HONEY. horseradish. kale. LEEKS. LEMON. lentils. MAPLE SYRUP. milk. mint. MISO. MUSHROOMS. MUSTARD. nutmeg. NUTS (walnut, almond, pecan). oil (OLIVE, sesame, nut oils). ONIONS. PARSLEY. pear. POTATOES. pumpkin. rice. rutabaga. sage. scallions. sesame. shallots. sorrel. sour cream. squash (winter). star anise. tarragon. THYME. turmeric. turnip. vanilla. vinegar (balsamic, cider, rice, sherry, white wine). yogurt.
Recipes to whet your palate
- Substitute parsnip for carrot in crackers, a miso spread, or soups with ginger and other root vegetables.
- Celebrate with a Carrot Parsnip Cake (as I did for my half birthday last year).
- Bake a batch of parsnip fries: Toss parsnips in oil with garlic and rosemary. Spread out evenly in a single layer on a baking sheet and cook @ 425F for 20-25 minutes.
- Or parsnip hash browns: parsnips with potato grated into a hash.
- Or roasted parsnip & chestnut salad: a hearty, wintery rustic salad.
And read this article next: Minnesota’s Open Arms takes the food/health connection to a whole new level