Produce Spotlight: Parsnips

Hello all and Happy Friday! The weekend has arrived, along with a new menu for next week’s bins! We’re looking forward to more delicious Fall items, the parsnips in particular.

Did you know that parsnips are a type of root, similar to potato, that can be eaten raw or cooked?

A little history: The Europeans brought parsnips to the United States in the 16th century, but to this day, they are not as popular with Americans as their carrot cousins. Although starchy like a potato, the parsnip is considered nutritionally superior.

If you grow your own, this root vegetable is best harvested after the first frost since the cold converts the starch to sugar, sweetening the parsnip and mellowing the flavor.

Health Benefits:

Parsnips may seem like an exotic vegetable that is unfamiliar to many, but what they have to offer your diet is twofold: Their fiber content is great for digestion and their sweet taste is satisfying without being high in calories.

Parsnips shine as a fiber source. They’re high in soluble fiber, the type that helps lower cholesterol and keep blood sugar on an even keel. They’re a surprising source of folic acid, that B vitamin which womenwho are planning a family require to help reduce the risk of certain disabling birth defects. Folic acid also plays a role in reducing heart disease and may help prevent dementia and osteoporosis bone fractures. And potassium, an aid to blood pressure, is present in ample quantities. Unlike their carrot cousins, however, parsnips lack beta-carotene.

Cooking Tips:

• Parsnips need to be peeled. For cooked parsnips, many prefer to boil or steam the washed root and then scrape off the skin to preserve nutritional value.

• Small, tender parsnips may be peeled and grated raw into salads.

• Parsnips are best roasted in the oven, although many like them steamed and mashed like potatoes.

• If your parsnips are over-sized, you will need to trim out the bitter core before or after cooking.

• To avoid mushy parsnips, add them to soups and stews near the end of the cooking time.

• Peeled and pared parsnips will turn dark when exposed to the air, so cook them right away or hold them in water with a bit of lemon juice added.

• Parsnips may be substituted for carrots in most recipes and vice versa.

• Herbs complementary to parsnips include basildill weed, parsley, thyme, and tarragon.

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