Featured Vegetable: Parsnips
Are you ever curious about those pale, carrot look-alikes stacked in the produce aisle? Did they catch your eye at a local farmers market? Chances are you won’t be surprised to learn that parsnips belong to the same family of vegetables as carrots – known as taproot vegetables.
But, do they taste like carrots? The flavor of parsnips can be described as sweeter than carrots with a bit of a nutty taste; some say they have a sharpness similar to radishes. January is the peak season for parsnips because when they are exposed to cold temperatures, the starch converts to sugar- making them taste best when harvested after a frost. You can keep parsnips around for up to a few weeks when you store them in the refrigerator.
Parsnips are a great vegetable to help add vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients to your diet. One-half cup of cooked parsnips provides a good source of folate and vitamin C and about 3 grams of fiber – all for less than 60 calories! They also add some heart-healthy potassium to your diet. Parsnips contain phytonutrients, in particular many poly-acetylene antioxidants, which may provide several protective health benefits.
When preparing parsnips, wash, scrub and gently peel the skin, similar to how you would handle carrots. Be cautious not to overcook this vegetable. Their higher sugar content makes them cook more quickly than carrots. Although you can consume parsnips raw in fresh salads or coleslaw, most recipes contain parsnips as a cooked ingredient. Prepare parsnips with or in place of other veggies like potatoes, sweet potatoes and cauliflower. Use them in soups, stews, casseroles and slow cooker recipes to add a unique flavor while enhancing the nutritional value of a dish. Try a few of these recipes as you embark on your parsnip culinary adventure. Next stop, nutritiously delicious fare!
Want to try something a little less traditional? Try Parsnip & Sweet Potato Crisps! These two veggies team up to create a flavorful, unique side dish or snack. Just wash them, then peel with a vegetable peeler until you reach the hard center, place the peels in a bowl and lightly toss with some olive oil. Then simply spread on a baking sheet lined with foil and bake at 325°F until they start to brown at the edges. Finally, season however you choose- sweet, savory, or both (a dash of salt, a bit of sugar, a sprinkle of cinnamon). Try this chef twist! Grind the salt with a favorite fresh herb such as rosemary or a spice like chili powder and use that to season the crisps as soon as they come out of the oven.
Serve and enjoy!