Noteworthy gardens - Poppy Cottage, Truro, England
Wordless Wednesday - January 26, 2010

In Pursuit of Parsnips

DSC_0073If New Englanders were to have to rely on local food in January, parsnips would be more popular.  Related to the carrot, Pastinaca sativa, is the less well know cousin one invites to dinner only if necessary.  Parsnips look like carrots but they are white and the flavor is unique.  They are best left in the ground until after a good freeze since the cold turns the carbohydrates into sugar giving them the honor of being the sweetest of root crops.  Parsnips are rich in potassium, folic acid, and fiber but I grew them because I wanted something to harvest in the middle of winter.  I used a crowbar to plant the seeds in a compost filled hole in May.  DSC_0005Parsnips are biennial and the seed must be fresh as it loses vigor quickly. The tops were lush and green in September.  DSC_0071In November, I covered the parsnip bed with twelve inches of straw to protect the ground from freezing so that winter harvest would be an option. DSC_0078Last week I decided to have some parsnips for lunch.  A nice roasted parsnip salad with mozzarella and olive oil would just hit the spot. It was time to take a walk to the garden. This was not as easy as it sounds.  There is two feet of snow on the ground.  The bottom eighteen inches have a hard crust which sits just below the new, powdery six inches of fresh snow.    The garden gate looked quite a bit lower as I approached it and the option was to shovel a three foot swarth so I could open the gate or simply climb over it.  DSC_0010I say simply but the last few months of inactivity have not kept this gardener limber or, it could possibly be that the heavy boots were just enough weight to keep the foot from swinging high over the gate.  It wasn't pretty and yoga is now on the list.  I made a less than graceful entrance into the garden in search of the burried parsnip covered mound which was the second from the last at the far end.  DSC_0012With all that snow, the mounds looked pretty similar.   I had only brought the garden fork with me thinking that would be enough.  DSC_0020Forks do not work well on snow but I was already committed so the fork broke up the hard crust and then the mittens went to work until they hit the straw.  The fork was employed to loosen and lift it to get at the parsnips.  No lunch has given me this much trouble in quite a while and it was a reminder to be thankful for the rows and rows of produce lined up and easy to pick at the grocery store.  DSC_0015Once the straw was lifted, there was an earthy pungence in the air. The fork easily plunged into the rich dark soil, the parsnips, although I admit they are not pretty, emerged from the depths. DSC_0018I have read that too much nitrogen fertilizer will cause the roots to fork and while I did use an organic fertilizer, perhaps a bit less would have yielded the long thick roots of perfection.  DSC_0019Perfect or not, the parsnips were carried to the house, cleaned and roasted.  DSC_0034-1Added to the salad, they were deliciously sweet with a bit of a nutty flavor.  There is much satisfaction in harvesting a vegetable in the middle of winter.  The EM does not really like parsnips.  Next year, there will be carrots planted in one of the other beds and covered just the same.  For now, I am planning the next meal with parsnips once my flexibility increases, strength returns, and I can get back to the garden.  I guess I need to eat a few more salads.  Have you ever planted parsnips?