Rate this Article: 

Average: 4.3 (54 votes)

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.


  • 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 ½ an inch deep
  • Seedlings will emerge in 2-3 weeks


  • 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.


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


  • 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

Wit & Wisdom

Fine words butter no parsnips.

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

Do really have to wait

I bought a house last fall that had a very prodigious garden then this jan we had a few warm days where the ground thawed so i took the opportunity to till all the compost that i had on the property from the previous owner there must have been some seed or something in that compost because i have some enormous parsnips that popped up in feb and they will be more than 16 weeks old in late june early july i read that they will taste best after a few frosts but im wondering if this will be too long since we dont get frost here until nov i dont want them to get woody waiting for frost is the taste that much different if we pull them early

early parsnip

Be sure that your plants are indeed edible parsnips, because there are some weeds, some toxic, that are lookalikes. If you are absolutely sure, then you might just count days to harvest (about 100 to 130 days since you saw them sprouting), and not worry about the frost, even though the roots may not be as sweet. On the other hand, you could try letting a few plants die back naturally, and leave some of the roots in the ground until a few fall frosts hit them and see if the quality is retained. I’m not sure, though, if the warm soils of summer will preserve them. It might be better just to harvest them soon.

Note: You don’t want the plant to flower, which will make the roots woody (these plants are biennial, so if the seeds just sprouted this year, it is unlikely that the plant will flower this year unless stressed). Be careful about handling parsnip, as the sap can be irritating to the skin.

Good luck!


I stored my parsinps in the cold room after a few frosts .after they were in there they shirveled up and were no good .What happenedÉ

parsnip storage

Perhaps the roots did not have enough humidity? Parsnips do best when stored in an area that is around 32 to 35 degrees F, and 90 to 95 percent humidity. Be sure to trim off the leaves, down to about 2 to 3 inches, before storing the roots. For long-term (between 4 and 6 months), store the roots in slightly damp sand, sawdust, or leaves.

Parsnips left in the ground

I left my parsnips in the ground over winter and am now harvesting. Lovely flavours. When I pull them up, they have small parsnips growing beside them. Can I replant these small pups?

Does parsnips eventually grow

Does parsnips eventually grow flowers, then become poisonous like its wild sibling or is it just the wild?


If you bought parsnip seeds to grow as food, you have nothing to worry about. However, wild plants resembling parsnips should not be taken for food except by persons who are skilled in identifying both the poisonous and nonpoisonous kinds. Parsnips (Pastenica sativa) are not poisonous at any time during the first growing season nor after the roots have been left in the soil over winter. There is no evidence that parsnip or other edible roots that go through the winter in the soil, even if they freeze, become poisonous.  

I like to bake them with

I like to bake them with other root vegetables. like beets, carrots, sweet potatoes and onions. Dice them up in big chunks,throw them in a bowl, cover them with olive oil and seasoning salt, spread them on a baking sheet, then bake until tender. Delicious

I have planted parsnips in my

I have planted parsnips in my raised bed Manitoba garden this year for the first time. With our minus 30 and 40 degree winter temps, if I mulch and leave some to over winter, will they survive to eat in the spring?

Hi Janice, It is unlikely

Hi Janice, It is unlikely that your parsnips could survive that cold a winter in the ground. Even in Minnesota the extension office recommends harvesting parsnips in the fall after a few frosts and storing them in a root cellar for the winter. You could always leave a few in the ground and give it a try!

Overwinter parsnip in zone 2 (Saskatchewan/Manitoba)

We left parsnips in ground last fall. This winter temperatures dipped to minus 40 and warmed up then dipped again. I did not mulch them but they were covered with snow. Dug some for Easter and cooked them....they were perfectly delicious. Today April 21 I dug three large pails. I know they will be fine to eat but since I have more than I can use in next two weeks I'm going to try to blanch and freeze them. Not sure what they will be like after being frozen in ground then froze in deep freeze? Has anyone tried freezing them after leaving in ground over winter?

We left out parsnips in the

We left out parsnips in the ground all winter they came up late this spring. Now they are tall and healthy looking but are growing what appears to be yellow seeds on top. They are circular in appearance. When we dig down they are small what is causing this problem? we have sandy soil.

Parsnips that have been

Parsnips that have been planted too late in the season will be small. Could that be the trouble? For many areas of the country, the ideal time would be to sow seeds in early spring. Too much nitrogen, or too crowded, can also cause small roots.
If the parsnips overwinter, harvest them before the top growth starts, or the root quality may suffer, such as turning woody. The yellow seeds developing on top is natural--parsnips are biennial, so they will go to seed the second year.

They went to seed

Parsnips are a Biennial and so every second year they will grow seeds. Same with carrots beets and onions. Its just Mother Nature at work :) creating more seeds for you to harvest and plant for the next year.

The only way I have ever

The only way I have ever eaten them, is to peel them and slice them the long way and fry them in butter. love them that way.

This past year was our first

This past year was our first attempt at growing parsnips. We harvested them after a few frosts as directed but the centers were fibrous and woody. We had to cut the centers out before we could eat the outer parts. What might have caused this problem and how can we prevent it this year?

They may have been harvested

They may have been harvested too late. They become more fibrous and woody if they get too large. It's fine to eat them; as you have done, just cut out that tough center.
Next time, you might also try spacing them a little more closely, such as 2 to 4 inches apart, to keep them smaller. Make sure that they get plenty of water, and provide mulch to keep the soil moist--too little water encourages woodiness.

I left some parsnips in the

I left some parsnips in the ground over the winter but by the time I remembered to pull them this spring, they'd already started new growth. I went ahead and pulled them, cut the tops off, and put them in the fridge, but are they still going to taste okay if I cook them at this point? I can always give them to my chickens if not, but I thought I'd ask before I took the time to prepare them.

Parsnips harvested in early

Parsnips harvested in early spring, before new growth starts, can taste sweet, as the starches change to sugar in preparation for growth. However, once the tops start to grow, the root can lose flavor and become fibrous. If you harvested them just when the leaves were barely emerging, it might be worth a taste. If there was a lot of growth, however, flavor might have suffered.

I have what I suspect is some

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

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.
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:

I have parsnips in the ground

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

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)

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

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

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

Overwintered parsnips taste

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

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

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

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

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

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

sounds great but try slicing

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.

We just steam parsnips with

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.

My wife and I enjoy them raw

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

Parsnip Cultivation

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

Botanical Name: 

Pastinaca sativa

Plant Type: 

Sun Exposure: 

Soil Type: 

Hardiness Zone: 

Keep Your New Garden Growing

keepgardengrowingcover.jpgTop 10 Veggies.
Almanac Editors Tips- water, feed, pest control, harvest


You will also be subscribed to our Almanac Companion Newsletter


Solar Energy Production Today

129.50 kWh

Live data from the solar array at The Old Farmer's Almanac offices in Dublin, NH.