Growing Parsnips

Parsnip is a root vegetable related to the carrot. It has a long cream- colored root which has a sweet, nutty flavour. Because it is naturally sweet, it has an affinity for sweeteners like sugar, honey, or maple syrup, much as a sweet potato does, and for related spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves.

History - Growing - Storage - Uses - Diseases & Pests

Historical Information

Parsnips have been cultivated since Roman times, and is recorded to be a favorite of Emperor Tiberius. The parsnip was cultivated along the Rhine and developed in Germany before becoming the vegetable of the poor across northern Europe for many centuries. At some point it began growing wild in England and some regions of Asia. Records dating back to 1609 mark that year as the time parsnip arrived in North America from England.

Parsnip History

Parsnip Varieties


The parsnip is a biennial, in that it will flower and set seed in the second year if left in the ground over the winter. It should be harvested in the fall of its first year of growth.

Parsnips grow best in full sun to partial shade, they prefer deep, well drained soil.

Parsnip seed should be sown in well cultivated soil loosened to a depth of 16" to 24". Many people dig a trench to which they add sand as they back fill then rake the soil into a 6" to 8" hill. Lightly pack the crest of the hill where the seeds are to be sown.

Use fresh seed each season as seed looses viability if stored for more than a few months.

Sow your parsnip seed thickly (2 or 3 seeds per inch) at a depth of 1/2" to 1" deep. Space your rows at least 15" apart. Germination is slow (2 to 3 weeks) so it is advisable to mark rows well. Some people like to include a light sowing of radishes as the emerging radish plants help break the soil crust and mark the row exactly (remove radishes early to avoid compete ti on).

Parsnip seedlings should be thinned once they are established around 4 weeks It seems a shame to throw away perfectly good plants but you must be firm on this, leaving only one plant ever 3 to 6 inches.

Keep rows well weeded and evenly watered throughout the season. Parsnips grow well under most conditions and are generally pest and disease free.

Parsnips require 100 -130 days to mature. They are very frost tolerant at the end of the season. In fact, the roots require near freezing temperatures in the fall to encourage the conversion to starch to the sugars that give the parsnip its sweet nutty flavor.

At harvest time (usually mid October) loosen the soil around the roots and dig carefully to avoid breaking the surrounding roots.

Growing Parsnips

Growing Medium for Parsnips


Once the parsnips have been harvested, the tops should be removed, leaving a small crown of leaf stalks.

Store the roots in a cool location, such as a root cellar or pack in layers of roots and dry peat moss in a plastic tub and store in the coolest corner of your basement. Washed parsnips will store for at least 4 weeks placed in plastic vegetable bags in your refrigerator.

Freezing Parsnips


Our favorite method of cooking parsnips is to peel and slice the roots and bake them at least one hour in the same pan as a roast of beef.

Parsnips can also be peeled and cubed and boiled like a potato. You can add parsnips to stew and soups and also add a bit of zest if cut very small and added raw to salads.

Parsnips are a healthy food choice as they contain no fat or sodium and are rich in potassium, they are a source of fibre and contain many vitamins with a rich abundance of vitamin C . Parsnips exceeds all other vegetables for food value except the potato.

Fried Parsnip Recipe

Parsnip Recipes

Diseases and Pests

Parsnip Pests and Pest Control

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In Ireland they make beer by boiling the parsnip roots with water and hops, then fermenting the liquor

Parsnips are considered an aphrodisiac in many countries

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