9 July 2013, by gj
You can learn a lot in a grocery store produce department.
It was a number of years back and in the fall, I was looking to buy some parsnips for a homemade vegetable soup. I always considered parsnips to be a rather tasteless, woody vegetable that’s good for soup but not much more.
Certainly not a vegetable to waste garden space on.
“Oh no we don’t carry them this time of year” the produce department manager told me. “You wouldn’t want them anyway. They’re much better in the spring after they have had some cold temperatures.”
Of course I was intrigued, and did some research when I got home.
She was right, seed suppliers actually recommend planting in the spring and overwintering parsnips.
So in the meantime, we got some seeds and planted the following spring. We also bought some parsnips as they came in, to see for ourselves.
She was right again. We never thought of a parsnip as being sweet, but it makes sense because they are closely related to carrots.
Now if you have ever tasted how much sweeter a homegrown carrot is than a store bought one, let me tell you the same is true for parsnips. We were shocked when we pulled some the following year. They are so sweet we add them to any recipe that calls for carrots. We have even added them to pancakes (see recipe tab above.)
There’s only one other secret to growing parsnips that we have found. You see, the seeds take a long time to germinate, up to a month. You just need a little patience; and be sure they get watered every day.
After that they are easy. If you find you need to thin as they get bigger, try to wait until they have had at least one or two frosts.
Here in Zone 5/6 you can plant as early as March and as late as July. We planted late May and will mulch heavily when the weather cools, pulling a few throughout the early winter months and the rest come spring.
Mmmm… now I wish we still had some from this past spring!