Valley Bounty: Parsnips

Parsnips, the paler and more often overlooked cousin to carrots, deserve a special place in the spotlight this time of year: spring-dug parsnips, which have been allowed to spend the winter underground beneath the snow, have converted much of their starch to sugar as a response to low temperatures (since simple sugars are more soluble than complex starches, they mix with water in the parsnips’ cells to slow freezing, the same way salt prevents asphalt from freezing). Parsnips are so sweet, in fact, that they were reportedly used as a main source of sugar by Europeans before Europe had ready access to sugarcane or sugar beets.

You can think about eating and cooking parsnips any way you would prepare carrots: raw as sticks or in salads, roasted, as an ingredient in soups and stews, etc. I also tend to find that parsnips are a bit sturdier than carrots and hold up a little better baking. Try cutting parsnips into French fry-sized sticks, tossing them with salt, paprika, and your preferred cooking oil (I like coconut oil for this), and baking at 450°F for about 20 minutes (stirring halfway through). These parsnip fries are a great seasonal side dish or snack.

Valley Bounty is written by Brian Snell of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)