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Parsnips for Beginners

What is sweet and savory and a nutritious substitute for potatoes?  Would it surprise you to know that this cousin of the carrot used to be the primary starch staple before the potato was introduced to the U.S.in the mid 19th century?

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Yes, it's true.  Parsnips were introduced to the New World in the mid 18th century but replaced by the potato a scant century later.  Related to the carrot and parsley, they were once used as a sugar source before the advent of cane and beet sugars.  Their sweetness is enhanced during frosty weather when part of their starch is converted to sugar.

Parsnips can be baked, boiled, steamed, fried, roasted, pureed, mashed, sliced and diced, and even eaten raw.  They can be served at any meal of the day and also as appetizers, soups, and desserts.  In soups, stews, and casseroles, they grant a rich flavor but can also grant a subtle flavor and starch to thicken by boiling the vegetable and then removing the whole pieces from the final dish.

Parsnips are shaped like carrots, in a cone shape, with a large end tapering to a small end. This root vegetable is an off white or pale yellow in color.  It is recommended that you select smallish roots, as they will be less woody/fibrous and more tender when cooked.  Preparation generally calls for cutting off both ends and peeling thinly.  Slice the length in half or thirds, then slice each section lengthwise repeatedly until all pieces are roughly the same in size.  This will ensure more even cooking.

As root vegetables, parsnips are a good source of Vitamin B-13, Orotic Acid, a key nutrient in the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis.  Also vital to MS treatment are Vitamin B-12 and Folic Acid.  Some FA is lost through cooking.  For instance, Self Nutrition Data says that 100 grams of cooked and salted parsnips are 14% folate whereas raw parsnips are 17% folate.  Vitamin B-12 is complete absent, so supplementation is necessary to balance these three vital nutrients.

Unfortunately, parsnips are higher in Omega 6 fatty acids than in Omega 3 FAs, but this is not unexpected.  Pairing parsnips with a fish course would be a good way of ensuring a better balance of 3 to 6, or supplementing with various Omega 3 products would also be effective.

Parsnip recipes are abundant online, with such notables as Martha Stewart, the Food Network, and BBC Good Foods side by side with countless less well known chefs and home cooks.

My husband, the professional cook, says in his experience parsnips were most commonly served mashed and even when roasted would need to be parboiled beforehand or they would be likely to be overcooked on the outside and undercooked on the inside.  Some of the other cooks I found online say differently.  I thought to include a basic recipe on this page, but I feel that the best course of action would probably be to experiment, starting with a simple online (or book) recipe source.

Following are a couple youtube videos, from different experts, as much to demonstrate how varied are experts' treatment of this vegetable as to offer at least one recipe to try.


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This website is for information purposes only and is not intended to be, or to serve as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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