Pair parsnips and sweet potatoes to savor Michigan’s fall flavors

Michigan State University Extension’s Michigan Fresh factsheets on Parsnips and Sweet potatoes provide safe handling and storage tips.

Root vegetable season is upon us. While there is still time to enjoy the fresh tomatoes, eggplant, summer squash and cucumbers, in the months that follow local farmers market stalls will transition to feature root vegetables and other storage crops. If you are like me and have a bit of a sweet tooth, parsnips and sweet potatoes are your fall and winter vegetable staples.

Field-fresh Michigan parsnips are available in September and October and again in late spring. Because parsnips store well and can be left in the ground to during the winter, Michigan parsnips can be found in all but the summer months. Sweet potatoes are sold fresh from the field in August through mid-November, and growers store them in climate-controlled storage to sell year round.

Parsnip: Carrot’s less popular, yet just as delicious, cousin

Visually, parsnips look like white carrots, but the flavor is much different. When visiting the farmers market, ask the growers whether parsnips have been left in the ground during a freeze—they will be sweeter if so. When selecting parsnips, keep in mind that small and medium-sized roots have the best flavor and texture.



Sweet Potato: Not to be confused with a yam

Many people use “sweet potato” and “yam” interchangeably, but they are actually two different species. Sweet potato is a member of the morning glory family Convolvulacea, and the species is Ipomoea batatas. Yams are from the Dioscoreaceae family. The Library of Congress accounts the history of how these two terms came to be used in the United States in this Everyday Mysteries Fun Science Fact.


Sweet potatoes

Storage and use of parsnips and sweet potatoes

While parsnips and sweet potatoes naturally stay fresh longer than many kinds of produce, there are ways to preserve them to last even further into the winter, or to enjoy when they are not in season. The best way to store fresh parsnips to last several months is in the coldest part of the refrigerator in a plastic bag or in a crisper that is at least half full of produce. Raw sweet potatoes will last up to two months if stored in a cool, dry, dark place. Parsnips and sweet potatoes can also be frozen or canned. The only safe way to can parsnips and sweet potatoes is with a pressure canner. For canning and freezing instructions, refer to the Michigan Fresh factsheets Parsnips and Sweet Potatoes.


Pair parsnips, sweet potatoes and other root vegetables for a delicious roasted vegetable medley

Of course, you may have a hard time keeping such delicious vegetables around long enough to preserve them with all of the recipes available on the Michigan Fresh Pinterest page and Michigan State University Extension articles such as pearsnip sauce, sweet potato ice cream, and the Michigan Fresh Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Fries recipe card.

Michigan Fresh helps people explore the state’s bounty of fresh, locally grown fruits, vegetables, meats and more. Find factsheets plus much more information on our website: You can also find and follow Michigan Fresh on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

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