So What the Heck is a Parsnip?

Roasting VeggiesLast night I prepared Roasted Carrot and Parsnip Soup using a recipe I found on Real Simple.  I roasted a pound of carrots, a pound of parsnips, a sweet onion, and three garlic cloves at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes (Real Simple, 2013).  The parsnip rounds look a little bit like banana slices in the picture.  I drizzled olive oil over the vegetables and added salt and pepper.  I transferred the roasted veggies to my food processor and pureed with 3 cups of water (Real Simple, 2013).

The soup has a delightful flavor, and is very satiating.  The high fiber contentHearty Crock 'o Soup in parsnips — 3 grams per half a cup — causes the satiation factor (Thompson, 2011).  Parsnips are also a good source of “vitamin C (17% of RDA), folate (11%), and manganese (11%)” (Thompson, 2011, para. 4).  Of course, this begs the question … what the heck is a parsnip?

The University of Illinois Extension (2013) explained that parsnip is a member of the carrot family.  The parsnip’s flavor does not fully develop until the roots have been exposed to freezing temperatures for at least two weeks (University of Illinois Extension, 2013).  WebMD reported that the freezing process converts the starches to sugar, and parsnips were historically used to sweeten preserves and baked goods (Three ParsnipsThompson, 2011).

A Modern Herbal noted that parsnips grew wild in Europe, and varieties were cultivated to develop specific qualities (Grieve, 1931).  Pliny the Elder claimed that Emperor Tiberius valued parsnips so much, he had them transported to Rome from the Rhine River region (Grieve, 1931).  Irish cottagers brewed parsnip beer by “boiling the roots with water and hops, and afterwards fermenting the liquor” (Grieve, 1931, para. 6).  The versatile parsnip was introduced to North America in the 17th century (Thompson, 2011).

Cultivating the parsnip requires patience and fertile soil (University South End of a Parsnipof Illinois Extension, 2013).  Horticulturists recommend marking the rows with radish plants since the parsnips take so long to germinate (University of Illinois Extension, 2013 ).  Joe and I haven’t decided yet if we will add parsnips to our garden mix.  We have until May, 2014 to decide … so until then, we’ll sip our soup and dream of spring.


Grieve, M. (1931). Parsnip. Retrieved from A Modern Herbal website:

Real Simple. (2013). Roasted carrot and parsnip soup. Retrieved from the Real Simple website:

Thompson, C. (2011). Seven healthy facts about parsnips. Retrieved from the WebMD website:

University of Illinois Extension. (2013). Parsnip. Retrieved from the University of Illinois Extension website:

All content © 2013-2014 Candace Nigh.
All rights reserved.

About Candace

My name is Candace Nigh. I am a wife, Mom, sister, social worker, hiker, engineer, and sleep champion. Passionate about social justice, public policy, and American History. Blog about sustainable urban farming. Creator of Garlic Celery Carrots:
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11 Responses to So What the Heck is a Parsnip?

  1. I have never tried parsnips… I might have to plant some.

  2. Danielle Langston says:

    makes me wonder why our family only eats these on thanksgiving! i love the blog!

  3. I haven’t cooked soup before will give this ago and introduce to the children

  4. Pat C. says:

    Candace, I tried this soup awhile ago when you first mentioned it on DC and loved it. Think it will be tomorrow’s soup du jour! Love your blog.

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