Pleased with Parsnips

Parsnips: carrot’s ugly cousin? Maybe. But they are sweeter, have more of a nutty flavor and are a bit mellower than the carrot, and personally, I like them more.

Parsnips have long clusters of stems with bright green leaves springing out from above the ground, but just beneath the surface of ground are long roots anchoring these green plants down into the earth- the root vegetable. (The leaves are often said to be toxic and can cause a rash similar to poison ivy, though some people have used them in recipes without any adverse reactions.)

You’ve heard the importance of eating the rainbow before, right? So why I am praising this whitish, gnarly looking vegetable? White vegetables actually have a pigment called anthoxanthins, and though they don’t provide a vibrant color, they do have important roles that contribute to reducing risk of heart disease, reducing allergy symptoms, and reducing inflammation in the joints, gut, blood and other organ systems.

Parsnips have antioxidants, which have been shown to be anti-inflammatory, antifungal and have anti-cancer properties.

  • Parsnips are a terrific source of fiber, vitamins B (particularly folate), C, E and K.
    • Folate helps produce new cells and is extra important in during pregnancy and early life.
      • It also helps produce red blood cells in the body, helping to keep the body anemia-free and allowing for oxygen to be transported through the body.
    • Vitamin E contributes to the production of red blood cells.
    • Vitamin C helps stimulate the production of white blood cells, which help attack diseases in the body.
    • Vitamin K is important because it helps in blood clotting- this is why we don’t continuously bleed when we get a small wound.
  • The vegetable holds many minerals, such as iron, copper, calcium, manganese, potassium and phosphorous.
    • Manganese helps produce hormones and phosphorous helps prevent cardiovascular disease because of its ability to reduce blood pressure and stress on heart.
      • It does this by regulating the fluids in the body and balancing the effects of sodium.
    • Phosphorous helps our bones and teeth.

So, from our skeletons to our blood, heart and happy digestive and immune systems, parsnips are a food that contribute wellness throughout the entire body.

They are a starchy vegetable and some people tend to steer clear of them for this reason, thinking that starch is a “bad carbohydrate”. While they are starchy, gram per gram, they contain about half as much starch than that of a potato carries. Starch breaks down into glucose in the body and becomes a great source of energy and is needed particularly for proper brain function. Starch plays an important role in our diet, so why not allow parsnips to fill the starchy portions of our plates?

Fun Fact:

Parsnips were often used as a sweetener before sugar cane was introduced to Europe. You could find parsnips in recipes for desserts and jams, for example. A fun activity may be to have your students come up with ways that parsnips can replace sugar. (For example: perhaps using parsnip juice or puréed parsnips for sauces and frostings. Or maybe dehydrating parsnips and grinding them into powder to use as a sugar substitute.)

Parsnips can be eaten raw, roasted, steamed, made into soups, stews, chips, fries, a mash, a hash, used in cakes, etc. The first is parsnip fries. Studies have shown that sensory qualities such as color can largely effect what we think we are tasting and our willingness to want to try something (particularly with kids). Because parsnips have very similar coloring to potatoes, this could be a great alternative to the extra starchy common French fry (or potato chips).

Parsnip Truffle Fries – SHORTER RECIPE

Serves: 6



  • 2 lb parsnips, batonnet
  • 1 ounce fresh parsley, finely minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs truffle oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper


  1. Preset oven to 425°F
  2. Combine parsnips and olive oil in a bowl and mix until coated evenly.
  3. Spread parsnips over wax paper on a sheet pan.
  4. After 20-15 minutes, flip and let roast until they begin to brown and reach desired crispiness (about 15 minutes).
  5. Sprinkle garlic over fries in the last 3 minutes.
  6. Toss parsnips, truffle oil, parsley and salt in a bowl and serve.


Parsnip and Carrot Soup – LONGER RECIPE

  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 lbs parsnip, rough chop
  • ½ lb carrot, rough chop
  • 1 medium red onion, rough chop
  • 3 cloves garlic, left unpeeled
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs salt
  • 1 tbs pepper
  • 1 ounce white wine
  • 1 tbs balsamic
  • 1 tbs fresh tarragon
  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Coat parsnips and carrots and whole, unpeeled, garlic cloves evenly in olive oil and black pepper (reserve a small amount for sweating onions). Occasionally stir the vegetables and remove once they have softened (about 30-40 minutes).
  3. Let the garlic cool enough to squeeze out of skin and set aside
  4. In a stockpot, add a small amount of olive oil and the onions over medium-low heat. Stir regularly until the onions have become translucent.
  5. Add the garlic to the pot and stir for just a moment so the flavor is incorporated and fragrant.
  6. Add wine and let reduce by ½.
  7. Add roasted vegetables to the pot.
  8. Add stock and bring to simmer for about 15 minutes until very tender
  9. Using an immersion blender, puree the ingredients in the stockpot until smooth.
  10. Once the soup is complete, use a ladle to transfer to a soup bowl.
  11. Drizzle ½ a teaspoon of balsamic over the top of each bowl for garnish along with ½ a teaspoon of fresh tarragon.


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