Valley Bounty: Parsnips
We are now entering the perfect time of year for eating parsnips; as temperatures plummet and the ground begins to freeze, parsnips begin converting their starches into sugars (since sugars are more soluble, they mix with the water in the parsnips’ cells to slow freezing, the same way salt prevents roads and driveways from freezing). This increase in sugar content, if you couldn’t guess, leads to a much sweeter flavor than many other starchy root vegetables, and parsnips were widely used as a source of sugar before beets and sugarcane were widely available in Europe.
Local parsnips are easy to find at winter farmers’ markets and frequently show up in winter farm shares. They can accommodate all the preparations you’d usually apply to potatoes (roasted with salt, pepper, and olive oil; mashed with butter and garlic; fried and salted; etc.), and their sweetness can make them an interesting counterpoint to savory winter foods like stews and roasts. Creamy parsnip soups are balanced well with additions like ginger and lemon, which cut the sweetness with some spice and acid. And for you homebrewers, there’s a long history of Americans making parsnip wine, though I’ll leave you to Google that one on your own.
Valley Bounty is written by Brian Snell of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)