Parsnips: sowing, growing, storing, eating

I have immense success with parsnip germination, and I have no idea why – is it something to do with hand heat or skin acidity when I sow the seed (former seems doubtful as I make good pastry, so my hands are cold rather than hot, perhaps the latter though?) or what? In any case, I have around 90% success with station sown parsnips, which is where you pop two or three seeds into a dimple in the ground, rather than a row, and thin to a single plant. And the picture shows what I harvest. Not bad, eh?

One tip is to buy fresh seed every year, another is to wait until March to sow if you have even a trace of clay in your soil.

I hand weed my seedlings and water into bottles by each dimple, rather than with a hose, as that keeps the weed seeds from germinating. They are a loooong season plant, sowing in March for harvest from November, although we never lift a single parsnip until after the first frost, as that’s what makes them sweet.

Once the tops begin to die back parsnips are ready to harvest. I lift about half, trying to beat the ice (failed miserably this year) that makes them so difficult to dig up, and leave half in the ground. The ones I lift are washed, cut into rings and the core taken out if it’s woody, and blanched for three minutes before open freezing. Then I pile them into a huge zip top freezer bag and take out as many as I need to make:

• Parsnip rosti – grate from semi frozen with potato and/or sweet potato and a beaten egg and lots of seasoning. Make into cakes. Put on greased greaseproof in an ovenproof dish and cook for 45 minutes on 200c. Great for Sunday brunch
• Parsnip soup – simmer until tender in vegetable stock (with potatoes if liked) with the zest of an orange, garam masala to taste and a sprinkle each of cinnamon and paprika. Cool slightly, puree. Utterly delicious with a swirl of Greek yoghurt on top and a hunk of wholemeal bread.

What’s your favourite parsnip recipe?

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Thursday, January 6, 2011


Blogger Joanna said...

I love parsnips roasted plain or with a coating of flour and grated cheese.

January 6, 2011 at 3:00 PM  
Blogger Joanna said...

Oh yes nearly forgot, we never used to have problems with germinating parsnips and now we do, maybe it has something to do with the soil as it is only since we moved away from Derbyshire we have had problems.

Now we just sow hamburg parsley which is similar in taste and far more reliable a cropper than the parsnips, plus you can use the leaves a bit like a strong parsley.

January 6, 2011 at 3:03 PM  
Anonymous Damo said...

I'm old fashioned just love them roasted on Sunday!

January 6, 2011 at 11:38 PM  
Blogger Mal's Allotment said...

There's never a time of year without parsnips in the ground. I share your enthusiasm for them, particularly roasted.

Once I had so many that I made parsnip wine. You have to wait ages to drink it. By the time we realised the success of the experiment two more years parsnips had gone!

January 7, 2011 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Ah, the joys of the roasted parsnip, Joanna and Damo. Mal, I'm impressed - does it produce a dry white or something sweeter?

Joanna - it's odd, isn't it? But I've lived in London, Sussex, North Devon and the Ariege in France and never had a problem with parsnip germination yet.

January 7, 2011 at 1:54 PM  
Anonymous Susan Fraser said...

Apart from roasted I have to say I really like them stir fried. The rosti sound good - I'll try them when I dig up my next one.

January 7, 2011 at 2:23 PM  
Blogger Mal's Allotment said...

It's the nearest thing you can get to a dry sherry!

January 9, 2011 at 5:35 AM  

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