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Vegetable of the month: Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) - The King of Winter Vegetables

Parsnips are thought to be native to the Mediterranean and were enjoyed by the Romans. The Emperor Tiberius accepted parsnips as part of a tribute due from Germania. Although supreme as part of a Sunday roast, parsnips are a versatile vegetable and can also be used in soups, stews and baking.

Seed Sowing and Cultivation

Good ground preparation will help ensure highly desirable, ivory-coloured, long, tapering roots. Dig the bed thoroughly and remove large stones. Parsnip seed can be slow to germinate (allow up to 3 weeks). Here in Wolverhampton the seed is best sown during March and April. Choose a still day to sow the seed as it is very flighty: a breezy day will see you watching helplessly as parsnip seeds fly out of your hand to choose their own seed bed.

Like all vegetables, parsnips will reward you for care taken during the growing season. Keep an eye on the rows of seedlings and finger-weed them. Thin the seedlings at least once in order to give each parsnip enough room. An un-thinned row will produce useless, skinny, tangled roots. The final distance between each root should be about 6 inches. Don’t be tempted to replant thinnings as they will most likely produce a root with the multi-tentacled appearance of a deep-sea monster. Once thinned, parsnips are fairly self-sufficient but will grow much larger roots if watered during dry weather. Keep weeding throughout the growing season taking care not to damage the roots. The parsnips down on Plot 18 at Boots Land Allotments don’t have any feed apart from a scattering of bone meal during preparatory digging.

Good varieties for the showbench are the F1s Panorama, Victor and TZ9045 whilst old favourites such as White Gem or Tender and True (1897) are still excellent. White Gem is a slightly more wedge-shaped, broad-shouldered variety which may suit some soils. The RHS gives good guidance on different varieties and their cultivation. How to grow parsnips / RHS Gardening

Harvesting – Eating – Storing

The first roots should be ready to eat from the end of the autumn – they will sit happily in the soil until required. The season ends once their tops start into growth the following spring so be sure to harvest them before this happens as after that their core will become woody. When harvesting, you are looking for fat-shouldered roots. Parsnips will tolerate being frozen in the ground but not in the air, so they are best left in the soil until required. Cold weather causes parsnips to activate a self-defence mechanism which converts starch to sugar. Parsnips are therefore much sweeter once they have been frosted. With the penetrating ground frost we experienced in December, parsnips will be especially tasty right now. Cleaning the roots can be a mucky experience – a battery-powered jet wash does the job in a fraction of the time.

Roast beef and parsnips are a perfect combination. The trick with achieving crispy, golden-edged roast parsnips or potatoes is to parboil them first and make sure the vegetables have steamed themselves dry for a few minutes before putting them in hot oil/fat in a hot oven. Once parboiled and left to steam dry for a few minutes, parsnips can be coated with polenta and parmesan before being roasted. Parsnip soup can be made extra special through the addition of apple. Easy parsnip soup is made by roasting a tray of parsnips and onions until the edges caramelise. Once the vegetables are nicely browned at the edges, blitz them in a processor with enough vegetable stock to achieve the required consistency. With their predilection for frost, parsnips are ideal for freezing – just parboil them first and allow to cool before packing away in the freezer.

Parsnips after a jet-wash

Parsnip bed in late December

The multi-tentacled monster is to be avoided at all costs!


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3 komentarze


Kelly Degg
Kelly Degg
01 sty 2023

Thank you. Like the look of this- will investigate. And, if you ever need a feature idea for Tool of the Month...

Polub

Kelly Degg
Kelly Degg
01 sty 2023

I am very intrigued by this 'battery-powered jet wash' business. Is this like the large models that you use to wash your car/paths with, or have you got some small, hand-held contraption? Do you have to attach it it a tap? Thanks.

Polub
Nieznany użytkownik
01 sty 2023
Odpowiada osobie:

We use a Worx WG625E HydroShot 20V MAX Cordless Pressure Washer. Really handy for washing veg and the Dahlia tubers. It’s portable and light, not as big and bulky as the car jet washers. It doesn’t need to be attached to a tap, just drop the end into a bucket or water butt. On one battery charge you get about 45 minutes wash time.


Polub
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