What to do with a parsnip

Parsnips can be a sweet and nutritious addition to your meals.

Parsnip is a root vegetable, sometimes called a white carrot, and is packed with nutrients, including vitamin K, vitamin E and folic acid. If you have never tried one before, do yourself a favor and pick some up. They are a great addition to soups, stews and stir-fry. Just like carrots, if they stay in the ground with the cold temperatures, they get sweeter– you may be pleasantly surprised.

When choosing parsnips, Michigan State University Extension recommends that you make sure they are firm and well-shaped. Discard any vegetables that show signs of rot, like soft spots or a darkness in color. The whiter the better when picking this root vegetable so throw out any with darkened cores. If you aren’t planning on eating the parsnips right away, they can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks but be sure to keep them in a plastic bag.

Parsnips need to be washed well before eating; after all, they are a root vegetable! Root vegetables are grown in soil and need to be thoroughly cleaned to avoid any dirt and bacteria left on the vegetable, which can cause foodborne illness. Use a clean and sanitized cutting board and utensils for preparation. You can prepare them whole, sliced or diced, baked or steamed.

If you would like to keep parsnips to enjoy through the winter, know that they can be frozen or dried. Canning parsnips can be done, but the end product is better when frozen. If freezing, select parsnips that are tender. Wash, peel and cut into ½ inch cubes before putting in a water blanch for three minutes. Cool in cold water and drain. Pack into labeled containers leaving a ½-inch headspace and freeze. Your freezer temperature should be at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. To dry, follow a research-based recipe for carrots.

Experiment – find a recipe for enjoying a new vegetable! Roasted parsnips with potatoes and carrots can be a wonderful root medley for a special dinner – just drizzle olive oil and seasoning on them and bake. Enjoy Michigan’s harvest, and if you have questions about food or food safety, contact your local MSU Extension office.

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