By Kathleen Yetman
The parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) is a root vegetable closely related to parsley and carrots that has been cultivated and eaten for thousands of years. Parsnips are indigenous to Eurasia. Documents show that they were cultivated in both Greek and Roman times.
Like carrots, parsnips are a biennial plant, meaning that it produces seeds in it’s second growing season. Most farmers grow parsnips like an annual, only until the taproot has reached a good size. Here in the Greater Prescott Area, they are planted throughout the summer for a continuous harvest in the fall and winter. Parsnips are best in the winter, when the cold temperatures keep them crisp, crunchy, and sweet. The edible taproot is white or cream-colored and frequently grow up to a foot in length when left to mature, which generally takes about four months.
Nutritionally, the parsnip is a good source of vitamins C, B, E, and K as well as potassium, manganese and magnesium. They also have a decent amount of dietary fiber and folate. Parsnips have a sweet flavor similar to carrots. They can be eaten raw, but are usually served cooked. Parsnips are typically roasted along with other vegetables and many people aren’t sure how else to prepare them. They are actually quite versatile. Some alternative ways to eat parsnips: boiled and mashed along with potatoes, sautéed and drizzled with maple syrup or chopped up like apples in a cake. They make delicious fries, can be added to hummus, shaved in salads, blended into creamy soup, and incorporated into latkes.
The Prescott Winter Market is 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays through April 29 at the Yavapai Regional Medical Center Pendleton Center parking lot, 930 Division St. The Prescott Valley Market is 3-6 p.m. Tuesdays through April 25 at the Harkins Theatres parking lot, at Glassford Hill Road and Park Avenue.
Kathleen Yetman is the managing director of the Prescott Farmers Market and a native of Prescott.