Yes, a parsnip may look like a carrot, and they are often confused with carrots, but they want you to know they are NOT carrots!
However, they ARE now in-season and are fantastic in a variety of fall and winter meals, so they ARE the Superfood of the Month for November!
What are parsnips?
Parsnips are a root vegetable and are part of the same family as carrots and parsley. They are native to Eurasia, and were cultivated by the Greeks and Romans, but historical details are difficult to find because, at some point, parsnips were categorized as carrots. They are very popular in European cuisine, especially in the United Kingdom.
Parsnips are available in stores year-round, but are best in the late fall and winter. This is because their starches turn to sugar after the first frost and the cold weather actually brings out their natural sweetness.
What do they taste like?
Their texture is very similar to a carrot, but parsnips have a unique, slightly sweet, almost nutty flavor. Believe it or not, they were actually used as a sweetening agent for foods before cane sugar became a major import to Europe! This sweetness makes them more versatile than carrots in a variety of meals!
As we frequently mention, as with all REAL foods, parsnips are loaded with nutrients and they are especially a potassium powerhouse!
- Loaded with potassium to reduce blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Great source of fiber! The fiber in parsnips helps with digestion, reduces constipation and lowers bad cholesterol.
- Vitamins of course! Parsnips are an excellent way to load up on antioxidants, including Vitamins C and E, which help boost your immune system and prevent disease by getting rid of the free radicals that can damage our bodies.
- With only 55 calories for a 1/2 cup serving, parsnips will give you 8% of your daily potassium, 2.8 g of fiber, and 17% of your daily Vitamin C!
How do you choose parsnips?
You want to select firm, small or medium parsnips (the smaller ones are often more tender, while the larger ones can be more fibrous and tough). Look for ones that are firm and crisp…and the whiter they are, they sweeter they are likely to be. You don’t want them to be limp or bend easily, and try to avoid the ones that have brown patches. At the store, parsnips are often found in bags in the produce section, containing 4-5 parsnips per bag.
If you happen to find wild parsnips, the leaves, stems and flowers can have a toxic sap that can burn or irritate your skin. Not that many of us are going to be out harvesting wild parsnips, but it is something to be aware of.
How do you store parsnips?
Parsnips can be stored in the vegetable crisper drawer of your refrigerator for at least 2 weeks.
Why do we love parsnips?
Many have heard our story, but as we began our REAL food journey, we were struggling to get our kids to eat vegetables. One of the first vegetables we tried roasting was parsnips. Why parsnips? Because, honestly, we thought we could pass them off as french fries if we cut into strips and roasted them in the oven. When we gave them to our son (who was 7 years old at the time), he devoured them! We finally revealed the secret that they were parsnips and he told us, "I don't care, they taste like fries!" Talk about a game-changing moment! Now, every year on his birthday, he asks for parsnip fries to be part of the menu!
How do you cook parsnips?
Parsnips can be roasted, baked, boiled, steamed or sautéed. They work great in soups, stews, or even mashed and pureed when you are preparing mashed potatoes. They also pair wonderfully with other root vegetables like potatoes, carrots and turnips.
Here are a few great-tasting ideas to try:
- Warm Winter Vegetable Salad
- Honey Glazed Roasted Carrots and Parsnips
- Slow Cooker Guinness Beef Stew
- Crunchy Carrot and Parsnip Kale Salad
- Chermoula-Inspired Spice Roasted Vegetables and Chickpeas
- Roasted Parsnip Chips
- Roasted Root Vegetable Salad
If you haven't already made parsnips part of your REAL food routine, try them and tell us what you think! Take the Superfood Challenge and try them in a variety of ways during the month of November!
You never know, you may love them so much you decide to include them as part of your Thanksgiving feast!