Winter squash, tubers and root vegetables are in great abundance this time of year. Another not-so-common winter root vegetable is parsnips. A member of the Apiaceae family, parsnips are a ‘cousin’ to carrots and share their long taproot characteristic, though they tend to grow larger and thicker.
The creamy white vegetable also has a central ‘core’ that can become tough as it grows to full maturity and may need to be trimmed down prior to preparation. Parsnips have a sweet, earthy flavor that is not fully developed until the roots have been exposed to near-freezing temperatures for 2 to 4 weeks in the fall and early winter. This cold-weather growth results in the starches changing into sugar.
Parsnips are believed to be native to the eastern Mediterranean region. In Roman times the parsnip was regarded to have medicinal as well as food value. While there is no evidence that the Greeks and Romans cultivated parsnips, they commonly used wild ones for food. The British colonists introduced parsnips to North American in the 1600’s. Parsnips are grown primarily in northern states, with Michigan, New York, Washington, and Oregon leading in production in the US.
Parsnips, bring a variety of nutrients to the table, including Vitamins C, E, and K, folic acid, potassium, magnesium and both soluble and insoluble fiber. These nutrients support cardiovascular, immune, and digestive health, aid in wound healing, and reduces the risk of neural tube defects in developing babies in utero. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases.
Before the cultivation of sugar beets and cane sugar, parsnips were commonly used as sweetener. Roasting parsnips brings out the natural sweetness of the vegetable and is a common preparation method. Cutting parsnips into strips (resembling french fries) and combining with similarly cut carrots makes for a tasty side dish when tossed with olive oil and roasted in a 400-degree oven.
Boiling parsnips with potatoes and mashing them together will give your mashed potatoes a tasty surprise for your holiday table. For a sweet and savory combination, try this roasted ‘root and fruit’ combination.
Maple Roasted Parsnips
1 ½ cups parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 ½ cups sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 cup apple, chopped (Fuji or Gala are good)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Nutrition information: Calories: 120, Total Fat: 2.5g, Saturated Fat: .2g, Sodium: 7mg, Carbohydrates: 25g, Fiber: 3.5g, Protein: 1g
Recipe adapted from Seasonal and Simple, analyzed by verywellfit.com