February 20th, 2009

Parsnips

bio_john_lewis
Yesterday I did some actual gardening for the first time since before Thanksgiving that didn’t involve looking at seed catalogs. We have had some slightly warmer weather recently and some of the snow has melted. I  was able to go out in the garden and find a patch of ground warmed by the sun that had completely thawed. With some detective work and my pitchfork I was able to harvest some nice parsnips!
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I think parsnips are an underappreciated vegetable. Many people think they are just a white carrot. The great thing about them is they are about the only vegetable you can harvest from November through March in New England. They are sweeter after the first frost. I use the big misshapen parsnips in soup. The nice looking ones can be cooked with a roast or even cooked quickly in the microwave with some carrots and butter as a side dish.

After a bit of washing I had a few nice specimens.
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I can’t take credit for growing these. These parsnips are actually self-sown. All you have to do is allow some parsnips to go to seed in your garden over the summer and in late fall, winter, or early spring you can harvest some nice ones. Of course, if you want all nice, straight, symmetrical parsnips you can make a hole with a steel bar, fill it with compost and plant a few parsnip seeds in it. Thin to one seedling and in a few months you will have some really nice straight parsnips. That is too much work for me. Besides I enjoy the occasional parsnip shaped liked Massachusetts or Idaho. My gardening compatriot Chloe doesn’t mind the odd shapes either.
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Comments

    John, I have tried at least twice to grow parsnips and failed to get any germination AT ALL both times. Is there a secret? My seed was fresh. When did your self-sown parsnip seed ripen and fall? Maybe I should try mimicking nature and scattering the seed when it would naturally ripen. I love parsnips and am going to keep trying until I get it right!

    I also love parsnips. An English blogging friend of mine had a post a while back about how Americans didn’t know parsnips, so I forwarded her a link to this post. (I think she’s right, overall, though.) If you ever find a parsnip shaped like Michigan, let me know!

    Pam:
    Parsnips are hard to get started they take two to three weeks and have a low germination rate. You have to plant the seed thickly and thin later. This is why letting them seed themselves in the late summer works well. I have planted them in the spring though with success. Everybody has a vegetable they have no luck with. Personally I can’t grow brussels sprouts. Lots of leaves and stem but no decent sized sprouts after 10 years of trying. Maybe Year 11 will be the charm!

    I see john came over to my house stole my parsnips on Feb.20 2009 an put it on organic gardening. I have had parsnips the last 10 year. i never planted them a bird, drop a seed in my strawberry patch it grew the next year it grew again an went to seed in July Aug. i think it came from my neighbor garden.
    the seed turn brown ,some fall most get blown away by the wind in Aug Sept. i never planted them i do nothing to them they just grow i dig up a big plastic bag or two ,in Nov put in refrigerator eat DEC Jan. Jan thaw dig up 2 plastic bag full .good with boiled dinner shoulder. MARCH ,OR APRIL dig 2 plastic bag, before MAY they get hard in the center going to seed.IN JULY AUG. john plants 1/2 of my garden

    Great post! It was very well researched and I enjoyed it very much. I bookmarked your site and will be back very soon, I look forward to reading some interesting posts! Thanks, Whitney

    Thanks John. (and the truth comes out .. so you STOLE Arthur’s ’snips!) I am going to look for someone who grows parsnips successfully and get some FRESH SEED in late summer. Maybe that’s the key.

    hi how deep do parsnips grow down?? with the right medium compost, water , trash can, horse M? ???? I let about 25 parsnips go to seed every year i cannot eat. in March April, (May) to late start to get hard in center when john come down to get some for him an his mother, she said the parsnips were very good boil dinner 2/22/09 with shoulder ,cabbage, potatoes, linguica, etc
    art

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