Farmers' Kitchen—Parse the Parsnips
Written onDecember 01 , 2011
Life on a vegetable farm slows down in the late fall and early winter. Most of the daily chores that keep us hopping the rest of the year—seeding, planting, weeding, and harvesting—are pretty much completed by this time, with some notable exceptions: We’re still harvesting the hardiest of crops, including parsnips, kale, spinach, and Brussels sprouts, even with the snow flying. But most of the land lays fallow, sporting only the nutrient-rich cover crops of winter rye and oats.
Radical Roots Farm is located along the Otter Creek, just outside of Rutland City. With fertile, river-valley soil, we use organic practices to produce a plethora of beautiful, delicious, and nutrient-dense vegetables on two acres of leased land. Root vegetables particularly thrive in our sandy, virtually rock-free soil. Carrots and parsnips grow long and straight, and it’s not uncommon for us to find a taproot stretching more than two feet long!
Parsnips are a favorite vegetable in our family. Coined “the candy of vegetables,” they have a sweet flavor that improves with winter weather, as the cold turns the starch to sugar. We begin harvesting parsnips after the first frost in October and continue until the ground becomes too frozen to pull these hardy vegetables from the land. Parsnips can be over-wintered (mulched and kept in the ground until spring), but with limited land and ever-growing community demand, we generally harvest all of our parsnips by mid-November, storing them in our root cellar and selling them at the Rutland Winter Farmers’ Market and local restaurants through December.
Although parsnips have as long a culinary history as carrots, they’ve never become quite as popular as their orange cousins. But they’re versatile; they can be eaten raw or cooked and can be used in savory as well as sweet dishes. They can be the secret ingredient in a localvore winter veggie roast, combined with potatoes, squash, garlic, and onions. Or they can be mashed or used in soup. Did you know that you can add mashed parsnips to many kinds of soups to give the soup a creamy texture?
Parsnips are also great in desserts. We’ve all heard of carrot cake—but what about parsnip cake? It’s just as easy to make and oh so delicious! Enjoy this recipe, courtesy of the Mad River Localvores.