10 Things You Should Know About Parsnips
Submitted by Stuart Broz on Sat, 02/07/2009 - 9:51am
The parsnip is my second-favorite (non-allium) root vegetable. Yes, I keep track of these things. Here are 10 things you ought to know about parsnips:
- Parsnips are carrot-like root vegetables with a ivory-colored skin. They are sweeter and sharper in flavor than a carrot. Some people say they have a bit of a celery taste to them. I like to describe them by saying, "Take a carrot. Remove 90% of that distinctly carroty taste. Increase the sweetness. Add in the sharp bite of a radish. That's a parsnip."
- Parsnips are great in stews, pot roasts, soups, or anywhere that you would use potatoes, carrots, or turnips. You can add parsnips to the above vegetables or use them as a substitute.
- Parsnips are almost always eaten cooked, though you can eat them raw (use smaller ones if you do). They are best eaten when cooked lightly. Roasting and steaming are ideal preparation methods.
- You can substitute them in for carrots in just about anything (though they cook a bit more quickly, so take that into account). You can also substitute carrots for parsnips - but, depending on the application, you might want to pre-cook your carrots a bit.
- Adding some parsnip to a potato dish is a great way to add a flavor accent. They work well in mashed potatoes or most roasted or fried preparations.
- Thick parsnips tend to have woody, bitter cores. These should be trimmed out.
- Before the introduction of the potato to Europe, the parsnip (along with the turnip) was much more of a staple than it is today.
- Parsnips are often sold coated in wax to seal in moisture and increase their shelf life. You should choose parsnips that are uniformly firm, without soft or moist spots. Ideally, they should be 6-8 inches long. They store very well. Don't eat (or cook) the wax.
- The starch in a parsnip readily converts to sugar when exposed to cold. This means that winter parsnips will be sweeter than autumn parsnips. It also means that they get sweeter when refrigerated.
- When cooking parsnips, be cautious not to treat them precisely like other root vegetables. They tend to get soft more quickly than most. That's not to say you can't get crispy parsnips by frying them, though. Parsnip chips, incidentally, are delicious.
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