All American Parsnip

Versatile and nutritious parsnips are being added to the menus of many gourmet restaurants. You’ll love the tender carrot-like roots for their sweet and distinctive flavor that’s delicious in soups and stews, mashed, stir-fried or roasted. The trick to growing the sweetest parsnips? Wait to harvest the roots until after the first frost. Cold temperatures change the starch into sugar making them sweet and flavorful.

When to sow outside: RECOMMENDED. Late spring or early summer, about 4 months before first fall frost. In warm/hot summer areas, sow in fall for harvest the following spring.

When to start inside: Not recommended.

Special germination instructions: Slow to germinate. Soak seeds in water for 12 - 24 hours before sowing.

Harvesting: To harvest parsnips, dig them up with a shovel or garden fork being careful not to cut or damage roots. If you wish to harvest before winter, leave parsnips in the ground for at least two weeks after a hard fall frost. You can improve the sweetness by storing at 32-34° F for two weeks before using. If you leave parsnips in the soil over winter, throw a few inches of soil over the crowns and mulch heavily with straw or compost after the first fall frosts. Stored starches are changed to sugar in early spring as the old plants prepare for new growth, thus roots harvested in early spring are especially tender and sweet. The roots lose flavor and become fibrous if you do not harvest them before new tops and seed stalks begin to grow.

Artist: Libby Kyer