We look at the world of possibilities when cooking with parsnip

The humble parsnip may not be your first choice of vegetable when in the kitchen, but they have a lot to offer. Parsnips have quite the history. The root vegetable is native to Eurasia and has been used since ancient times in this area. As far back as the 16th Century the parsnip is recorded as being popular with the masses of Germany, where they would be used to make wine or jam and even used in cakes. Of course, now they are most often found as one component of a filling roast dinner.

They are often labelled ‘the white carrot’, and sometimes used as a substitute for carrots in recipes, parsnips are actually slightly sweeter in taste and probably more versatile too. Parsnips won’t generally store for as long as carrots though, so keep in the fridge and use within a week for the best quality.

When choosing which ones to buy, the whiter they are, the sweeter. So if you like your parsnips sweet go for the whitest you can find. The more brown and shrivelled parsnips tend to be less sweet (as they are older). You could choose to eat them raw, of course, but we think they taste far better when cooked —whether you want to roast, boil, mash or fry them.

 

parsnips

 

Alessandra Felice considers the health benefits of a parsnip-heavy diet

Never tried parsnip before? Put them on your grocery list for the next time you’re shopping. These root vegetables are not only delicious when cooked, roasted or used as a secret ingredient in desserts, but are also full of beneficial nutrients too!

Vitamin C and E

Vitamin C and E are known to act as antioxidants in the body and can help to reduce the effects of free radicals and vitamin C can also stimulate the production of white blood cells and is a key factor in the production of collagen, which is one of the building blocks of skin, tissues, bones, ligaments and many more structures in the body. Plus nutrients like this, along with betacarotene, vitamin E, zinc, vitamin D and omega-3s. can help support eye health and reduce the risk of conditions like macular degeneration. Thankfully they are all widely present in plant foods!
Other vitamins and minerals contained in parsnips such as folate, potassium and fibre can all contribute to cardiovascular health and balancing levels of blood sugar.

Potassium 

Potassium supports the lowering of blood pressure acting as a vasodilator and folate can reduce homocysteine levels in the blood that if too high, are associated with a higher risk of heart disease. As for fibre, it doesn’t only
benefit our digestive system as it promotes the regulations of bowel movements and helps move and eliminate waste from the body. In fact, soluble fibre has been associated with balancing cholesterol and blood sugar levels
that are important factors in the managing of heart health.

Maganese

As if that wasn’t enough, these tasty root vegetables are a source of manganese. This mineral may not be often spoken about, but it’s a key component of enzymes that are needed for normal bone growth, formation of
cartilage, blood clotting, maintaining healthy nervous and immune systems and in the formation of essential antioxidants. When you’re picking your parsnips make sure they are firm and fairly smooth, without moist spots or any soft parts, and if the leafy tops are still attached they should look fresh and green.

 

parsnips

 

Need some parsnip inspiration? Here are some fun ideas for using them up

Fries:
The sweet potato may be making in-roads into the mainstream when it comes to fries, but parsnips can make a tasty alternative to your usual potato side. Preheat oven to 200°C (Gas Mark 6, 400°F). Wash, peel and slice parsnips into disc-shaped chips. Toss with oil, add to a baking tray and season to taste. Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning halfway through. Once brown on the outside they are ready to serve.

Noodles:
Fed up with trying to find egg-free noodles? Have a go at making parsnip noodles!Wash and peel your ‘snips and trim the ends. If you have a spiralizer it’s really easy, if not then grab your vegetable peeler and produce noodle-like
strands of parsnip. Add oil to a frying pan on a medium-high heating and sauté for 10-15 minutes, to soften the parsnips. Serve warm as you would with any other type of noodles and tuck in.

Crisps:
Once you’ve got those parsnips washed and peeled, and the oven preheated to 200°C (Gas Mark 6, 400°F), use a mandolin or knife to slice wafer-thin crisps. Remove excess moisture by placing on paper towel before tipping into a bowl and adding oil and seasoning. Arrange on a baking tray in a single layer and roast on the bottom shelf for 20 minutes, turning halfway. Once golden brown and crisp wait until cool and then serve with your favourite dip.

Mash:
Creamy mash alongside some meat-free sausages is the ideal cold, autumn dinner. Change it up by using parsnips instead of potatoes. Aſter preparing the parsnips by washing, peeling and slicing. Add to cold water and bring to the boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes until tender before draining. Return over low heat, adding dairy-free milk and spread, and seasoning to taste. Cook for another 15 minutes and mash as you would potato.

Desserts:
Perhaps because of the fluffy texture when cooked, parsnips can even be used in desserts. If you’ve experimented with sweet potato or beetroot brownies, you can now try parsnip ones!The sweetness of the parsnip perfectly complements the rich, dark chocolate flavour. Also, try them in cakes and muffins paired with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, with maple and apples or ginger and carrot.

Tea Time – As with most vegetables, you can use parsnips to make tea. Simmer a couple of chopped parsnips in boiling water for around an hour, and then remove parsnips for a tasty tea. Sweeten with agave syrup.

 

parsnip fries

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