How To Grow Parsnips

Parsnips On Cutting Board
Parsnips On Cutting Board

Parsnips (Pastinacea sativa) have been a neglected route both in my garden and in my kitchen in the past, however, the last couple of years they have found a place in both. They can be a little hard to get started from seed, but once you master that there are no harder to grow than carrots and can be grown in much the same way.

Lifecycle

  • Parsnips are Biennial plants grown as an annual

Culture

  • Parsnips like a deep, loose, easily crumbled soil produce long, straight roots.
    Improving the soil with, humus-rich, well-rotted compost helps improve growth and overall plant health. Fresh manuring or additional fertilization is not recommended, to prevent parsnip roots from producing too many root hairs.
  • Sow Parsnips at a rate of 20 seeds a foot, ½ inch deep, in rows 24 inches apart.
    The parsnip is a root vegetable that takes four months to mature. But because frost enhances its sweet, delicate flavor, it is a favorite with gardeners in areas with short growing seasons where they are planted in early to mid-spring.
  • In fact, if the soil is mulched well enough so that it does not freeze, parsnips can be left in the ground and harvested all winter.
  • If the ground does freeze, they can be dug up the following spring.
    In Southern regions where winters are mild, parsnips can be planted in the fall for use as a winter crop.
  • Thoroughly mixing a packet of Parsnip seeds with a cup of dry coffee grounds, adds extra bulk to the seeds and make the seeds easier to sow.
  • Parsnip seeds normally require 2-3 weeks in damp with a ground of 50-68°F to germinate. The optimal germination range 58-68°F. Do not allow the soil to dry out before emergence.
  • Thin parsnips plants to between 2 and 3 inches apart.
Parsnips interplanted with carrots in a disused pole bean bead in my fall and winter garden.
Parsnips interplanted with carrots in a disused pole bean bed in my fall and winter garden.

To Harvest

  • Cut off the tops of the parsnips, the with a potato fork or shovel, dig deeply and well away from the roots to avoid damage.
  • Parsnips require a full season of growth, and their sweet flavor is brought on by cold weather. Dig in the fall or leave in the ground through the winter.
  • When harvesting in early spring, dig before the tops begin to regrow for the highest quality roots.

Storage

  • To store in the refrigerator, trim the top greens off and place an open container or vegetable (perforate) bag in the vegetable drawer at about 32-34°F and 90-95% relative humidity.
  • To store in a root cellar, keep very cool and humid (see guidelines for refrigeration) and away from strong drafts. Parsnip will keep, properly stored in bins of clean straw or pitch free wood chip through the fall and winter.

Caution

  • In rare instances, contact with the foliage may result in a rash.
  • When working with the Parsnips on hot, sunny days, protect exposed skin by wearing gloves, long sleeves, and long pants.
  • Additionally, bathing or, at a minimum, the washing any exposed skin as soon as possible after contact with Parsnips is strongly recommended.

How to Eat Parsnips

  • Parsnips can be eaten in much the same way you would carrots, rutabagas, turnips. Parsnips can be eaten as soups, as roasted roots (my favorite way), make since stews, or steamed mashed and mixed and mashed potatoes

Related References