The parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) is a root vegetable closely related to parsley and carrots that has been cultivated and eaten for thousands of years. Parsnips are indigenous to Eurasia; writings show that they were cultivated in both Greek and Roman times.

Like carrots, the parsnip is a biennial plant, meaning that it produces seeds in its second growing season. Most farmers grow parsnips like an annual, only until the taproot has reached a good size. Here in the Greater Prescott Area, they are planted throughout the summer for a continuous harvest in the fall and winter. Parsnips are best in the winter, when the cold temperatures keep them crisp, crunchy and sweet. The edible taproot is white or cream-colored and frequently grow up to a foot in length when left to mature, which generally takes about four months.

Nutritionally, the parsnip is a good source of vitamins C, B, E and K as well as potassium, manganese and magnesium. They also have a decent amount of dietary fiber and folate. Parsnips have a sweet flavor similar to carrots. They can be eaten raw, but are usually served cooked. Parsnips are typically roasted along with other vegetables and many people aren’t sure how else to prepare them. They are actually quite versatile. Some alternative ways to eat parsnips: boiled and mashed along with potatoes, sautéed and drizzled with maple syrup or chopped up like apples in a cake. They make delicious fries, can be added to hummus, shaved in salads, blended into creamy soup and incorporated into latkes.