Parsnip: Although traditionally reserved for the festive table, this tuberous root is ready for picking throughout the autumn and winter season. After a few healthy frosts, and a little time to mature in nutrient-rich soils, the humble parsnip is at its best – sweet in flavour and tender in texture.
Closely related to the carrot and parsley, the parsnip has been cultivated since Roman times, initially used as a natural sweetener before the discovery and importation of sugar cane. This makes parsnip ideal for both sweet and savoury cooking.
This root, native to Eurasia, is also known particularly for its super nutrients, with high levels of potassium and packed full of antioxidants supporting our body’s primary defence system.
Seasonal period: October to March
Flavour friends: This robust seasonal root provides a beautiful balance to many savoury dishes and even baking and desserts, offering a sweet yet earthy flavour.
Its sweetness makes it a perfect match to other naturally sweet ingredients such as peas, scallops and apples; all of which also have an earthy tendency.
Their rich palate means it complements most meats; pork, beef and chicken, as well as more delicate white fish. Parsnip’s herbal undertones also means it’s great in combinations with aromatics such as anise and nutmeg.
Buying, storing and preparing: Avoid fibrous roots – these are often oversized parsnips that look dry and woody. Seek smaller, blemish-free roots that feel firm and solid.
Once purchased, store in the fridge for up to a week. Thoroughly wash and peel if needed – young parsnips don’t necessarily need peeling, but remove any blemished skin.
Cooking: Young, tender parsnips can be enjoyed raw, otherwise roast or boil. Prepare as stated above, before chopping into chunks or batons.
Boil: Place in a pan of salted boiling water and boil for 15 – 20 minutes until soft but still holding form.
Roast: Place in a roasting tin with a sprinkling of oil. Roast at 180C for 40 – 55 minutes until golden and tender.
Words and Photo by Helen Upshall