Pining for Parsnips

Here is the fourth in our series on nutrition and winter vegetables. Enjoy!

The parsnip is a root vegetable that look like a pale carrot. Much like carrots, you can store parsnips with the leafy tops removed in a breathable plastic bag in your refrigerator for up to 3 or 4 weeks. Remember that when you get vegetables directly from a farmer, they will not have added chemicals or preservatives applied so they may last longer than those you buy in the store, or alternatively they may need to be used sooner. Just check on how they are keeping – soft mushy spots indicate that they are no longer good.

Parsnips are the sweetest of the root vegetables and spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger compliment them nicely. Parsnips provide a source of dietary vitamin C, folate, potassium and fibre. Vitamin C helps keep teeth and gums healthy in addition to helping wounds heal faster. Folate is important for the growth of new cells, and potassium helps maintain healthy blood pressure. Fibre can help lower cholesterol, decrease constipation and keep you feeling full; most of us don’t get enough fibre in our diet and eating parsnips can help!

Parsnips are generally eaten cooked – but be sure not to overcook them (the texture is most appealing and nutrients are preserved when they are cooked just until tender). They can be baked (350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-30 minutes), boiled (for 5 to 15 minutes), microwaved (cut in chunks and place in microwave safe dish with 2 tablespoons of water), or steamed (5 to 30 minutes – shorter times for smaller pieces, longer for whole parsnips). Serve them as a side dish, puree into soups, cut in chunks for stews, or add them to casseroles!

Here is a great parsnip soup recipe; a perfect meal on a cold winter day!

Parsnip and Carrot Soup
Ingredients:
• 4tbsp butter, softened
• 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
• 450g (15oz) carrots, peeled and chopped
• 2 large parsnips, peeled and chopped
• 1 level tbsp. freshly grated root ginger
• 1 level tsp. finely grated orange rind
• 600ml (1 pint) vegetable stock
• 125ml (4fl oz.) single cream (to reduce the fat in this recipe use whole or 2% milk instead).
• Salt and ground black pepper
• Sprigs of fresh coriander, to garnish

Directions:
1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the carrots and parsnips. Cover the pan until the vegetables have softened a little. Stir in the ginger, orange rind and stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 30-35 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Remove from the heat and cool for 10 minutes.
2. Transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Return the soup to the rinsed-out saucepan, stir in the cream (or milk), and season well with salt and pepper. Warm through gently over a low heat.
3. Remove from the heat and ladle into soup bowls. Sprinkle pepper over and garnish your parsnip soup with a sprig of coriander.

Serves 4