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Parsnips

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Botanical name: Pastinaca sativa

Plant type: Vegetable

USDA Hardiness Zones: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Sun exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun

Soil type: Sandy, Loamy

Soil pH: Slightly Acidic to Neutral

Parsnips, popular with ancient Greeks and Romans, were brought over to the Americas with the first colonists. Although parsnips are biennials, they are usually grown as an annual vegetable. Parsnips are a hardy, cool-season crop that is best harvested after a hard frost. Parsnips are not only tasty in soups and stews, but can also be enjoyed by themselves.

Planting

  • Always sow fresh seed.
  • Parsnips need a long growing season, so sow as soon as the soil is workable.
  • Loosen the soil to a depth of 12-15 inches and mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost.
  • Sow 2 seeds per inch 1/2 an inch deep
  • Seedlings will emerge in 2-3 weeks

Care

  • Thin the seedlings to stand 3-6 inches apart.
  • Water during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week.
  • Always keep the beds free of weeds.

Pests

  • Aphids
  • Leaf Miners
  • Carrot Rust Flies
  • Parsnip Canker (all cultivars but 'Tender and True' are resistant to this)

Harvest/Storage

  • Parsnips mature in about 16 weeks.
  • Leave your parsnips in the ground for a few frosts but harvest before the ground freezes.
  • If you leave them in the ground for the winter, cover them with a thick layer of mulch and harvest immediately after the ground thaws in the spring.

Recommended Varieties

  • 'Avonresister' (short)
  • 'Cobham Improved Marrow' (medium)
  • 'Gladiator' (long)

Recipes

Wit & Wisdom

Fine words butter no parsnips.

Comments

I have what I suspect is some

By Jack Rhodes

I have what I suspect is some kind of wild parsnips which I pulled up from ground that is now devoted to a hazelnut orchard. I am inexperienced with parsnips and am unsure if these are safe to eat. The crowns were above ground and are turning green. They also have an irregular shape unlike the more carrot-like ones in your picture.I am keeping them in the refrigerator in a plastic grocery bag for now. I need some advice before I go any further. Thanks

You are definitely correct to

By Almanac Staff

You are definitely correct to not eat any wild plant without a definite identification by an expert. Unfortunately, we wouldn't be able to do that here. We'd suggest that you take the plant sample to a knowledgeable horticulturist in your area, such as those at your county's Cooperative Extension.
 
http://www.almanac.com/content/cooperative-extension-services
 
The wild parsnip plant (Pastinaca sativa) has several lookalikes, including one of the deadliest plants in North America, water hemlock. Even wild parsnips, although the roots are edible, have a sap that can cause severe skin irritation, discoloration, rash, and blisters when the sap on the skin is exposed to light; all aboveground parts are poisonous. Only the root is edible. When harvesting wild parsnip (which is invasive in many areas), always use gloves, long sleeves, long pants, etc. to avoid getting the sap on your skin.
 
Water hemlock (Cicuta douglasii), poison hemlock (Conium maculatum), cowbane (Cicuta virosa), wild carrot, etc. all look similar. Below are a few sites that describe wild parsnip and the hemlock lookalikes:
 
http://ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=9996
 
http://fyi.uwex.edu/weedsci/2001/07/04/wild-parsnip-3/
 
http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/icm/2007/7-9/poison.html
 
http://blog.emergencyoutdoors.com/edible-wild-plants-wild-parsnip-pastinaca-sativa/
 
http://www.prairiehaven.com/?page_id=9686
 
http://wildwoodsurvival.com/survival/food/poisonousplants/waterhemlock/index.html
 
http://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/all/cicuta-maculata/

I have parsnips in the ground

By Kelly Stump

I have parsnips in the ground and would like to over-winter. The foliage has grown tall, can I cut the foliage before I mulch? What's the best mulch to use?

If you overwinter your

By Almanac Staff

If you overwinter your parsnips, just add a few inches of soil over the crowns after the first fall frosts.Harvest the roots in early spring. They should be even more tender and sweet!

Are the lower leaves (stalks)

By Paul W.

Are the lower leaves (stalks) supposed to fan out onto the ground? I can barely get into my parsnip patch because of these lower leaves fanning out on the ground. It prevents me from weeding, because if I walk in there, I'll trample the parsnip leaves and break the stalks.

That's interesting that your

By Almanac Staff

That's interesting that your parsnip greens are fanned onto the ground. You can trim them a little bit to make weeding easier, but keep in mind that some people develop a rash after handling parsnip greens. It is best to wear gloves when handling the tops.

I overwintered parsnips. Did

By mary jean Gross

I overwintered parsnips. Did nothing this season, now have 5 foot tall plants. What should I do?

Overwintered parsnips taste

By Almanac Staff

Overwintered parsnips taste wonderfully tender and sweet from the frost. Flower stalks can indeed grow five feet tall, blossoming with large yellow flowers.You want to dig them up, as they can no longer store well. They have long tap roots so get ready to dig!

I Have a large problem with

By Joyce Malison

I Have a large problem with mine for the last two years. I use fresh seed and my soil has cow manure worked into the grown before planting. My husband then plants the seeds like carrot seeds are planted with sand due to the size. Now we have already planted them, twice this year. Can anybody HELP ,GARDENER NEEDS HELP!!!!!

I have been pre-sprouting my

By Butrose

I have been pre-sprouting my parsnips for the last few years with great success. Just dump all of the seeds on a wet paper towel and cover them with a fold of the towel. Cover the whole thing with plastic wrap and put on top of the fridge. They take quite awhile to sprout, 2-4 weeks.If you are lucky half of them will sprout. Parsnip seeds are not real viable.Plant the sprouts as you would the seeds.Enjoy success as I have.

Last fall I left my parsnips

By Molly Holst

Last fall I left my parsnips in the ground. I had them covered, but uncovered to dig some and forgot to cover them back before the hard freeze. I covered them after the freeze, but they had froze. This spring I tilled the tops off and they are growing again. Should I leave them or till them up?

Parsnips are best if they

By Almanac Staff

Parsnips are best if they stay in the ground for a frost--or, a few frosts! They're also fine if you leave them in the ground and overwinter, even through the snow. However, we would harvest the roots in the spring before new growth begins. If you have too many parsnips, you can always blanche and freeze.

fixing parsnips

By Anonymous

we usually peel and boil until almost done. then transfer to baking dish and cover with brown sugar and butter and bake until completely done. yum yum

My wife and I enjoy them raw

By Butrose

My wife and I enjoy them raw on a vegetable tray with dip.Slice them thin, skin and all.YUM!

We just steam parsnips with

By Wendell Ferrell, inventor/evangelist

We just steam parsnips with other vegetables & enjoy with salmon patties. I drink the juice. I also blend raw til it is a liquid with raw pineapple slices & raw eggs, adding reverse water as needed. Delicious & SO GOOD FOR YOU.

sounds great but try slicing

By Donna Weatherington

sounds great but try slicing like potatoes fry in a skillet slowly in butter and add brown sugar when they are tender sautee and serve does bot take ling to do this way.

Parsnip Cultivation

By Anonymous

The reader will be better informed by this article than one by the Royal Horticultural Society.

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