Parsnips - Yummo Scrummo
Parsnips are a personal favorite of mine, which I just adore roasted with Lamb. I have obviously got a few issues I need to deal with as far as my passion for parsnips go. Recently whilst cooking a roast for hubby and me I included a number of parsnips in the dish for us to share. Unfortunately when I served up our dinner, Dave may not of had as many parsnips on his plate as I did.
Parsnips are a firm favorite with many. They can only be grown from seed; you will not find them in punnets in the garden centre as they can’t be transplanted successfully to produce a good root crop. I have proved this theory last year by sowing some in trays, they geminated and transplanted well but the root damage at planting time caused my parsnips to have poor tangled root systems. The parsnips I sowed directly into the garden grew so well and tasted so wonderful that I didn’t even share them with family and friends – how bad am I!
A number of varieties are available. Generally they all have long tubular root systems. The main differences are in flavour and the size of the crown, which is the middle core bit of the parsnip. Guernsey is an heirloom variety that is tasty and reliable. Gladiator and White gem are modern hybrids.
Parsnips need a free draining, well worked over soil in full sun. It is critical that the soil is deeply worked and easy for the roots to penetrate into.
Seed should be sown directly in to the soil as early in the spring as possible for the cold ground to revive the seed from dormancy. Once sown, I pour boiling water over the seed row to help break the seed coat. Sow seed thickly. If sowing rows make sure each row is 40-50cm apart – this allows you to work over the individual rows.
Once parsnip seedlings are up they are very susceptible to aphids. Watch carefully for these and apply a good organic insect spray, I use Beat A Bug. Thin parsnips as they grow to enable larger roots to grow. If you do not thin your parsnips, they will become crowded and susceptible to disease and rot. Once ready they may be left in the ground all winter but should be harvested before they sprout again in spring when the roots turn pithy and become inedible
Do not harvest until there has been a couple of weeks of frost or near freezing temperatures. The cold results in the starch in the roots being converted into sugars which give the parsnip its sweet taste. Use a spade to dig the parsnip out of the ground.
After you have harvested your parsnip roots clip off any remaining leaf stalks and wash and dry the root bulb. They can be stored for many weeks in the right conditions in the fridge or frozen. But in my house they don’t last that long!