Category Archives: Parsnips

The Parsnips Experiment Conclusion

regrowing parsnips

Part 1
Part 2

Here’s the recap:
In the spring of 2013 we planted parsnip seeds in our Zone 5/6 garden.
That fall, we harvested some of the roots and left others to overwinter.

In the spring of 2014 we harvested some of those roots, and left a few to go to seed. Since we didn’t plant any new seed, there were no roots to overwinter. We just wanted to see if we could keep doing this and never buy seeds again.

Well sure enough the seedling shown above is one of many that are popping up. We’re probably a good 3 weeks ahead of when we would normally have seedlings this size, as we would just be putting in seeds now.

The experiment was successful except for one thing.

We really don’t want to dedicate and entire 4×4 foot bed to just parsnips.

So we bit the bullet and removed about half of the seedlings. We can use the saved seeds from last fall to plant in a spot that can be their forever home, albeit a bit smaller one.

Now we can cross parsnips off the list of seeds we’ll ever need to buy.
What a great feeling.


Perennial Parsnips Part 2

parsnsip seed heads

This experiment is already over a year in the making, having first planted the seeds in the spring of 2013.
Last April we looked at the beginnings of it, and what the plan was.

Basically, it is an effort to get a biennial root crop to reseed itself, thus making it one veggie we never need buy seeds for again; and to do that in a zone 5/6 region.

So far so good, though it has taken all summer.
We did what we planned and left 3 roots in the bed to flower and reseed.

collecting parsnip seeds

And man did they reseed! Not only is the bed full of wee babes, but we also have sufficient seed to share with our friends and kids.
If we repeat this experiment, one root will be enough to fill a 4×4 bed, and keep everyone in parsnips.

The main question now is whether the seedlings will be strong enough to survive the cold. They will get a splash of some Moo Poo Tea to insure great root growth and as a way to replenish the soil.
We may also give them some help with a cold frame cover and mulch, but the less we need to intervene the better.

parsnip seedlings

It is also very possible that the timing for this may be just a little off, and that eventually we will need to plant from seeds again.

Of course, if we continue to save them each year, that shouldn’t be an issue.

Now we are prepared to take what we have learned and see if we can get similar results with carrots.

You’ve got to love free veggies.

The Secrets to Perfectly Sweet Parsnips

A few weeks after sprouting.

A few weeks after sprouting.

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!

How to Grow – Parsnips

root vegetables

Parsnips with some homegrown chives.

Parsnips are a sweet and often overlooked veggie in the home garden.

They do take a very long time to grow and will be using up space that you might be better off giving to another veggie. Here in Zone 5, much of that time is the off season, so it’s not too bad.

Plant parsnip seed early spring to midsummer, around the time the onion crop is finished. Mulch well to protect and try to be patient. Mark your rows so you’ll know where to dig in spring.

Parsnips, like many other veggies, are also better when they are smaller, about the size of a carrot. They can be overwintered; in fact, their taste improves after some hard frosts.

After harvest, parsnips can be pressure canned or frozen. Since you can leave them in the ground, no need for cold storage indoors.

Botanical name: Pastinaca sativa
Yield: 1 per seed
Spacing: 3″
Days to maturity: 120
Harvest: When a mature size, after a frost. Use a pitchfork to loosen the soil.
Storage: Pressure canned, frozen or dehydrated. They can also just be left in the ground until spring.