The parsnip is a vitamin-rich root vegetable that is harvested in the fall. Read why organic parsnips are better, how to store the parsnips, how to prepare them, whether you can eat the root raw, and much more.
The parsnip: delicious root vegetable
For many years, the parsnip seemed to have disappeared from the face of the earth in Central Europe. Slowly but surely, the root vegetable, reminiscent of an oversized white carrot, is returning to our kitchens – as an ingredient rich in vital substances for many delicious recipes. Maybe the parsnip is still foreign to you. This will soon be over – at the latest after reading this article.
Parsnips are available in organic shops, and farmers’ markets, but also in well-stocked supermarkets. The following applies the smaller, the better! Because young parsnips are particularly tender, while large specimens are fibrous and woody and do not taste particularly good.
The parsnips should be intact with no brown spots. If they are dull and wrinkled, this indicates incorrect or too long storage, which affects the nutrients they contain and the taste. A fresh parsnip is crisp and won’t bend.
Pesticides: Better choose organic parsnips
Root vegetables, such as parsnips, perform much better on average than fruit or leafy vegetables when it comes to pesticide contamination since the pesticides are not sprayed directly onto the food. Nevertheless, an analysis by the Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Office in Stuttgart in 2019 showed that both parsnip samples examined contained multiple residues. In a sample from Germany, the level of the fungicide Fosetyl was even higher than the legally permitted maximum.
The European Food Safety Authority concluded in 2014 that fosetyl is unlikely to pose a health risk to consumers, although this does not appear to be certain. What is clear is that the fungicide has a toxic effect on beneficial insects such as bees, small wild animals, and aquatic organisms, which was confirmed by a Canadian re-evaluation in 2019. So play it safe and buy organic parsnips.
The storage of parsnips
On great-grandmother’s day, the frost-resistant parsnips were simply left in the ground in the garden all winter or stored in a cool cellar. But parsnips can also be stored wonderfully in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator, preferably unpackaged and unwashed. At an optimal temperature of 0 to 1 °C, parsnips can be stored for 4 to 6 months.
You can easily freeze parsnips:
- Freezing raw parsnips: It is important that you cut the parsnips open. Because if you freeze whole pieces, the consistency is mushy and the taste becomes bitter. You can let the vegetables thaw at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
- To freeze blanched parsnips: Place the vegetables in boiling salted water. Small pieces require 2 to 3 minutes, larger ones 4 to 5 minutes. Then drain the parsnips in a colander.
- Freeze parsnips pureed: If you often want to conjure up a baby puree or a soup from parsnips, you can puree the vegetables with a hand blender before freezing them and then freeze them.
Place the parsnips in freezer bags and place them in the freezer. Frozen parsnips can be kept for around a year at temperatures of at least -18 °C.
Raw parsnips are delicious
like e.g. B. carrots, parsnips can also be enjoyed wonderfully raw. They don’t have to be peeled either. You can even use some of the leaves and eat them raw. The reason why raw parsnips are so healthy is that when they are cooked, their nutrient content is reduced by exposure to heat. Some of the water-soluble nutrients also get into the cooking water, which is why this should be eaten if possible – for example with a soup. You can chop up the raw leaves and stalks and sprinkle them over food as a spice.
Do you have to peel parsnips?
As with other fruit and vegetables, the level of micronutrients and phytochemicals in parsnips is highest directly under and on the skin. In addition, the peel contains the most fiber, which has a positive effect on digestion. Unpeeled parsnips are healthier than peeled ones. However, if you still want to peel the parsnips, you should use a vegetable peeler so as not to cut away too many of the vegetables unnecessarily.
Cooking parsnips in the kitchen
First, wash the roots thoroughly under running water. You can clean earthy parsnips with a vegetable brush. Then, if you like, remove the peel with a vegetable peeler and the two ends with a sharp knife. Depending on the recipe, you can then cut the parsnips into larger or smaller slices, wedges, sticks, or cubes.
There are many ways to make parsnips delicious. When you boil or bake them, their consistency tends to be soft to mushy, reminiscent of potatoes. But if you cut them into thin slices, you can fry them crispy or use them to make chips. We would like to introduce you to a few methods of preparation:
Steaming parsnips (in contrast to cooking) has a gentle effect on the ingredients and the aroma. Put some oil in a saucepan and briefly sauté the diced or stuck parsnips – also in combination with onions or other vegetables. Now add the spices, pour in some vegetable broth, and steam the vegetables at medium temperature with the lid closed for 10 to 15 minutes. Then sprinkle the parsnips with freshly chopped herbs or make them into a soup or puree.
If you want to cook parsnips in the pan, you should dice them or cut them into very thin slices. Then fry the pieces in hot and heat-stable vegetable oil (e.g. olive oil) in a coated pan for about 10 to 15 minutes, turning occasionally. When frying, make sure the parsnips turn golden brown and not black, otherwise they will taste bitter. A vegetable pan with parsnips, potatoes, and Brussels sprouts tastes particularly delicious.
To cook the roots in the oven, cut them into the desired shape – e.g. B. like fries or wedges. Preheat the oven to 230°C. Then put the parsnip pieces on a baking tray, brush them with oil and season them e.g. B. with thyme or rosemary. The baking time is around 40 minutes, depending on the cut shape. Don’t forget to turn the parsnips twice.
Finely slice the prepared parsnips and pat dry. Heat a heat-resistant oil. You can tell if it’s hot enough when you put the handle of a wooden spoon in the fat and bubbles start to rise. Then fry the parsnip slices in it for 1 minute, remove with a slotted spoon, reheat the oil and fry the slices for another 3 minutes. Drain the parsnip fries on a kitchen towel and sprinkle with some sea salt.
Does the parsnip also contain toxic substances?
Herbal compounds can also have adverse effects. This is also the case with the heat-stable furanocoumarins, which are by no means only found in parsnips, but also in other umbelliferous plants such as celery or parsley and in citrus plants such as grapefruit and lemon.
In addition, acrylamide can form in the parsnip with some preparation methods, e.g. B. in the production of vegetable chips. Nitrate, on the other hand, is not a problem with parsnips, which we will discuss below under the topic of baby food.
Furanocoumarins can trigger a phototoxic reaction in some people (not all) when exposed to UV radiation during or after direct skin contact with said plants. Around 24 hours later, blisters form on the skin like a sunburn. People with sensitive skin are particularly affected.
A phototoxic reaction can hardly occur just by eating it since you would have to ingest about 1 mg of furanocoumarins per kg of body weight. According to estimates, however, the average daily intake in Germany is only 1.4 mg, so the phototoxic dose is not reached. In addition, furanocoumarins are digested and excreted so rapidly that toxicity is mitigated. It is also important to know that the content of furanocoumarins in the cultivated parsnip is lower than in the wild form. The parsnip can therefore be touched and eaten without concern.
Pregnant women should be particularly careful. Indeed, some animal studies have shown that furanocoumarin extracts can cross the placenta and cause fetal bleeding in the uterus, increasing the likelihood of spontaneous abortion and fetal malformations.
Parsnip puree for babies
The mild, sweet taste of parsnips is very popular with youngsters. The root vegetable is also easy to digest and has a stool-regulating effect. You can therefore prepare a puree for your baby from the parsnip, which is possible from the 5th month. The preparation of a parsnip puree is very simple:
- Wash and peel the vegetables and cut them into small pieces.
- Now steam the parsnips for 5 to 8 minutes (in just a little water – for every 150 g parsnips 30 ml water).
- If the vegetables are soft, you can process them into a creamy mash with a hand blender.