Parsnips are a creamy white skinned vegetable with a green leafy top that are steeped in a rich history. Parsnips have been cultivated since ancient roman times, it is even documented that Emperor Tiberius brought parsnips to Rome from France and Germany where they grew along the banks of the Rhine River. Parsnips are a root vegetable from the Umbelliferae family which includes such favorites as carrots, chervil, parsley, fennel and celery.
Parsnips are also an excellent form of nutrition. The average 9" parsnip has around 130 calories, no saturated fat, no cholesterol and is high in fiber, folic acid, calcium, potassium and vitamins B1, B2, B3, C, iron and zinc. Parsnips have a wide range of uses, in Ireland parsnips are used to make beer and wine.
During World War II parsnips were used to make mock bananas. The parsnips were mashed and mixed with banana essence to curb the desire for bananas during the war. Some people believe parsnips to be an aphrodisiac or even a cure all for relieving a toothache or tired feet. In Italy parsnips are used to feed pigs in Parma, these pigs then become delicious Parma Ham. Parsnips grow wild but are more common in commercial farms. Commercial farmers have found that by harvesting the parsnips and storing them for two weeks in temperatures ranging from 32° - 34°F the starches in the parsnips will begin to turn to sugars.
Beware of wild parsnips for they may actually by water hemlock. Water hemlock looks like parsnip but is poisonous. When buying parsnips look for firm small to medium sized ones, if the parsnip is too large it will have a woody center. Parsnips can be kept raw in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks in the vegetable crisper or in a vented plastic bag. After cooking parsnips can be kept refrigerated for 2-3 days.
Parsnips can be prepared in a wide variety of ways. Parsnips can be: * Steamed * Boiled * Braised * Sautéed * Roasted * And made into chips .
By: Shauna Hanus