Vegan Grandma

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Some interesting things About Parsnips

A parsnip is a white root vegetable with a slightly sweet flavor and is a member of the parsley family . Parsnips look like white-yellow carrots, but they are sweeter than carrots. Parsnips are creamy yellow on the outside and white on the inside.

The ancient Romans grew and cooked parsnips to make broths and stews. Throughout the Dark Ages and early Middle Ages, parsnips were the main starchy vegetable for ordinary people. Parsnips were easy to grow and provided a good source of starch during the lean winter months. They were also valued for their sugar content. Sweet parsnip dishes like jam and desserts became part of traditional English cookery, and they were used for making beer and wine. Today parsnip wine is still one of the most popular of the country wines in England.

Parsnips are high in soluble fiber, whish helps to lower cholesterol and helps to regulate blood sugar. parsnips are a good source of folic acid, calcium, iron and potassium, and contain moderate amounts of vitamins A and C, along with some of the B vitamins. Unlike their carrot cousins, parsnips are not a great source of beta-carotene.

Parsnips are available year-round in some markets but are easier to find in winter and early spring. If parsnips are harvested after a frost, they will taste sweeter, because the extra time and a frost help turn the starch into sugar. Many people prefer the young tender parsnips which are available in the early summer.

When choosing parsnips
, look for the small- to medium-size parsnips, about 8" to 10" in length. These are less fibrous and more tender. The larger roots have a stronger flavor and a more fibrous texture with a woody center. Avoid parsnips with blemishes. They should feel firm and be a pale ivory color without any sprouting roots. The skin should be fairly smooth and firm, not shriveled. Any attached greens should look fresh.

To store parsnips, clip off any attached greens before refrigerating. Attached greens will drain moisture from the root. Store parsnips in your crisper drawer in a loosely closed, or perforated plastic bag . Stored this way, they will keep for a week or two. Cold temperatures close to 32 degrees F. helps tp sweeten the parsnips.To use parsnips, Scrub them well before using them. Trim both ends. Cut 1/4- to 1/2-inch off the top (the greens end) to avoid pesticide residues. Better yet, buy organic parsnips.

If you can, peel the parsnips after cooking, they will be sweeter and will retain more nutrients. Almost 50 percent of the nutrients in parsnips are water-soluble, and will leach out into the water during cooking. Most the flavor in parsnips is found just beneath the skin, and some of this flavor will leach out, also. Save the cooking water for use in soups. When parsnips are cooked in soups or stews, the leached-out flavor and nutrients will be in the broth.

Very small parsnips need little or no peeling. Just trim the ends and cook according to your recipe. Medium-size and large parsnips may need to be peeled. Larger parsnips also need to have the woody core removed; if it is cut out before cooking, the parsnips will cook more quickly and evenly.

To steam parsnips, cut them into quarters lengthwise and remove the fibrous core from the larger ones. Small parsnips, whish are about 5 to 7 inches in length and on the slim side, do not need to be cored. Cut into evenly sized pieces and steam until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes, then scrape or peel away the skin. Like carrots, well-scrubbed fresh parsnips may not need peeling.

To roast parsnips (the most flavorful way to prepare them), cut them into 3- inch-by-1/2 -inch sticks, add carrots for extra color and nutrients, toss with a little olive oil, and place them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, turning once, until tender, about 20 to 40 minutes depending on thickness.

Small, tender parsnips can be grated into salads, but the larger ones are better cooked.

You can serve parsnips whole, cut up or pureed like mashed potatoes. Serve pureed parsnips with a drizzle of olive oil.

Parsnips are good seasoned with basil, parsley, thyme, and tarragon. Parsnips are also good with garlic. Ginger and nutmeg will bring out the sweetness of parsnips.
Parsnips are great in soups and stews. Add them at the last ten minutes of cooking time so they do not become mushy.

Parsnips can also be used to make a flavorful stock, or pureed for a tasty soup thickener.

Peeled or cut parsnips will turn brown quickly, so either cook them right away after peeling, or put them in a bowl of water with a bit of lemon juice added, until ready to use, then drain and cook.

Parsnips can replace carrots in most recipes, or be combined with carrots. Remember that the flavor of the parsnips will dominate.

Oven Roasted Parsnip "Fries"

Several Parsnips

Olive oil

salt and pepper

Peel and thinly slice the parsnips. Put the parsnip strips in a mixing bowl and splash in some olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and mix to coat. Spread the parsnips in a single layer on a baking pan. Bake at 450 degrees F. Mix with a long wooden spoon every 10 minutes or so until brown and crisp.


Grandmother's Food Secrets, by Dr. Myles H. Bader, published by Mylette Enterprises, LLC, Las Vegas NV 89102

Brilliant Food Tips and Cooking Tips, by David Joachim, published by Rodale

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison, published by Broadway Books, New York


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