The Parsnip…Carrot’s Forgotten Cousin

By N. E. Sheehan.

Often misunderstood, parsnips offer a sweet, nutty flavor packed with vitamins and minerals. What’s not to like?

The parsnip, a member of the carrot family, is sometimes called “anemic” because of its whitish color. But don’t let its pale appearance fool you: this tasty root vegetable holds some powerhouse flavor, great fiber, and is considered a densely nutritious, high-energy food. Parsnips are rich in vitamins B, C, and K, with a super supply of minerals. In other words…they’re good for you!

The parsnip was the go-to vegetable in medieval Europe before the potato took over in popularity, and in New World America it was used as an internal cleanser, helping to rid the kidneys and gallbladder of toxins. Our ancestors also used a diet of parsnips for those recovering from illness and surgery. Not bad for an anemic- looking vegetable!

If you’ve never tasted a parsnip, you are in for a treat. It has a sweet, nutty-like flavor, and when baked or sautéed, the starch in this root vegetable caramelizes quite nicely. Parsnips are great in soups and stews, oven roasted with other vegetables, or grated to make delicious vegetable patties. Try adding parsnips to boiled potatoes for an interesting twist to mashed potatoes. Peel them as you would a carrot and save the shavings for your next soup stock.

A fantastic way to enjoy parsnips is “southern-style”–FRIED! My southern grandmother used to make this treat for my sisters and me. And, trust me, fistfights almost ensued over who would get the last of the French-fried parsnips. They are even tastier dipped in a honey mustard sauce or a nice organic ketchup. You may never go back again to regular French fries! Don’t pass by this versatile “carrot cousin,” for you will surely fall in love with this fabulously delicious root vegetable.

French-Fried Parsnips

  • 1 pound parsnips
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose or gluten-free flour (experiment with adding other seasonings to taste)
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups canola, coconut, or other vegetable oil; or lard

Peel and cut parsnips in half, then quarter the thicker end. The thin part of the parsnip can stay whole. (For even frying, try for as much uniformity as possible.)

Put flour and seasonings in a paper bag and shake to mix. Add parsnips and shake well to coat. Prepare a landing area for the finished fries with a draining rack and paper towels.

Put the oil in a heavy frying pan over a medium-high flame and heat until it shimmers a little, but before it smokes. (If you have a deep-fry thermometer, the oil temperature should be in the 360-375 degree neighborhood. If you are unsure simply add a test parsnip; you should see immediate frying action.) Without crowding the pan, add a batch of the parsnip pieces and fry, turning occasionally with tongs or a skimmer, until golden brown on all sides. Carefully moderate the flame so that frying is continual, but not too aggressive.

Drain fries on a rack or brown paper or paper towels. Pat them on top with paper towels to remove excess oil. Let them stand a few minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper if you like.

Serves 3 – 4, as a snack or side

N.E. Sheehan holds degrees in Journalism, Food Science & Nutrition and has had a 30-year career in radio sales, broadcasting, and newspaper reporting. She currently has a big bag of parsnips in her fridge ready to fry!

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