Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) is a root vegetable native to Eurasia and has been used extensively in that region since ancient times. This taproot is closely related to carrots and parsley, and for that reason, it is often mistaken for carrots in historical records. Parsnip is a hardy annual or biennial plant.
Parsnips look like pale carrots but they are a nutrient-packed root vegetable. These vegetables can vary in color from white to cream to pale yellow, with more noticeable sweetness when harvested after the first frost. Before cane sugar and beet sugar, parsnip was used as a natural sweetener to flavor cakes and other baked items. They were the main starch on the table before potatoes.
European explorers brought parsnips with them and introduced the root vegetable to new colonies, especially in North America, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand.
One cup (133 grams) of parsnips provides the following:
- Calories: 100
- Carbs: 24 grams
- Fiber: 6.5 grams
- Protein: 1.5 grams
- Fat: 0.5 grams
- Vitamin C: 25% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Vitamin K: 25% of the RDI
- Folate: 22% of the RDI
- Vitamin E: 13% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 10% of the RDI
- Thiamine: 10% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 8% of the RDI
- Zinc: 7% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 7% of the RDI
Parsnips are a great source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. One cup contains 6.5 grams, or 26% of your daily fiber needs. Fiber moves through your gastrointestinal tract undigested, helping to get things moving. Increasing your fiber intake has been shown to aid in treating digestive conditions like gastro-esophageal reflux disease, diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, and intestinal ulcers.
Fiber also supports blood sugar control, reduces cholesterol levels, lowers blood pressure, and decreases markers of inflammation. According to studies, increasing your daily fiber intake by 14 grams may decrease your calorie intake by up to 10%.
Parsnips have a high water content of about 79.5%. Studies show that eating more water-rich foods may be associated with decreased calorie intake and increased weight loss.
Parsnips are loaded with vitamin C, providing about 25% of your daily needs in just one serving. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a central role in immune function. Vitamin C in parsnips stimulates the production of white blood cells to attack foreign microbes in the body, in addition to functioning as a key element in the production of collagen, which is a fundamental building block of our body.
Along with vitamin C, parsnips are rich in potassium, a mineral that helps your heart function, balances your blood pressure, and lowers your risk for kidney stones. One cup of parsnips provides about 10 percent of your RDI of potassium. The high potassium present in parsnips helps in controlling heart rate and blood pressure by countering effects of sodium.
Potassium and folate in parsnips fight depression, anxiety, and other mental issues. They also help you become more focused and alert.
Parsnips are rich in folate (vitamin B9 or folic acid), which is also connected with reducing neural tube birth defects including cleft palate, spina bifida, and brain damage in infants. They also help in optimizing metabolic processes related to energy production and the nervous system. Vitamin C and folate in parsnips boost overall oral health by preventing gingivitis, tongue inflammation, toothache, and bad breath. It maintains healthy connective tissue and gums as well as builds strong teeth.
Parsnips provide manganese, which is an essential component of many enzymes in the body.
Parsnips are high in the antioxidants quercetin, kaempferol, and apigenin, which may enhance your immunity and protect against infection.
The research journal Scientific Reports suggests that ascorbic acid, which is also found in parsnip, prevents various eye issues including age-related macular degeneration, which causes blurred vision in older people. The antioxidants in the vegetable also protect the eyes against damage caused by the sun. Overall it helps boost eye health and vision.
Because parsnips provide manganese, calcium, and zinc, they can help improve bone health.
Falcarindiol, an antioxidant present in parsnips, may have anti-cancer properties which look for and destroy tumorigenic cells.
The anti-inflammatory properties of parsnip and carotenoids in it help treat many respiratory problem and infections. These include sinusitis, asthma, wheezing, emphysema (damaged air sacs in the lungs), bronchitis, dyspnea (shortness of breath), and other respiratory illnesses.
Vitamin C, vitamin B9, and iron present in parsnips are crucial for increasing blood flow and preventing anemia, especially in women. Additionally, vitamin E helps in building red blood cells, thereby, boosting oxygen transport in the body.
How to Buy
Parsnips are found in supermarkets year-round, but they’re at their peak flavor from late fall to early spring.
It is best to choose parsnips that are small to medium in size, about 5 to 10 inches in length. Avoid any that are limp or shriveled; the tips should be firm and pointy. Also, look for firm flesh without any soft spots, blemishes, cuts, or cracks. The color should be an even yellowy-cream hue without any dark markings, as that can indicate decay or freeze-burn. If you buy parsnips with their greens still attached, the greens should look fresh and not wilted.
You should avoid picking wild parsnip. Wild parsnip is nearly identical, but it has far more furanocoumarin compounds in its stems and sap. It’s even considered hazardous to some people. These furanocoumarin compounds cause photosensitivity and can lead to sunlight-related burns on the skin within 24 to 48 hours.
How to Store
Remove and discard parsnip greens before storing. Store unwashed parsnips in a cool dark place, just as you would carrots. A root cellar is best, though a basement or garage will work. Keep them away from heat sources; the optimal conditions are 32 F to 40 F and 90 percent humidity. Additionally, apples and pears can emit a gas that gives parsnips a bitter taste, so avoid storing them nearby.
Under these ideal conditions, parsnips should keep well for four to six months. It’s good to check on them often and remove any roots that begin to deteriorate.
Parsnips can also be wrapped in a tea towel and placed in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. Using this method, they should last up to two weeks, if not longer. Cooked parsnips may be refrigerated and used within three days.
To freeze, cut parsnips into 1/2-inch cubes and parboil and drain or steam for 3 to 5 minutes. Cool, pack into well-sealed containers, and freeze for eight to 10 months. Fully cooked parsnip puree may also be frozen for up to 10 months.
How to Cook
Parsnips have a sweet taste similar to carrots, but with a nutty, earthy undertone.
They can be mashed, roasted, sautéed, boiled, baked, grilled, or fried. Parsnips work especially well in soups, stews, casseroles, gratins, and purees.
They can also be easily swapped in for nearly any other root vegetable in your favorite recipes, including carrots, potatoes, turnips, and rutabagas.
- Combine parsnips with mushrooms and lentils for a vegetarian shepherd’s pie.
- Mash parsnips and mix with lemon and herbs.
- Prepare a parsnip gratin with ingredients like vegan feta cheese, turmeric, and cumin.
- Bake sliced parsnips and bake in the oven to make vegetable crisps.
- Drizzle maple syrup on parsnips and roast them together in the oven
- Make a parsnip and potato gratin
- Grate parsnips and add to your salad