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Action stations: growing parsnips

Action stations: growing parsnips

Now the soil is warming up nicely, outdoor sowing is beginning to gather pace. The roll-call so far includes broad beans, peas (“Kelvedon Wonder” from Essex, appropriately enough), radishes, some early carrots under fleece and parsnips. While I might be at action stations – there is so much to do at this time of year – nothing happens very fast in the world of the parsnip.

In fact, nothing will happen at all if you don’t use fresh seed every year, since it doesn’t stay viable longer than that. Even with fresh seed, germination is often slow and erratic, especially from the traditional late-February sowing, which is why I normally wait ‘til March, when the ground is a bit warmer. Covering it with cloches or black plastic sheeting in advance will help. The ideal soil is deep, light, stone free and not too rich (i.e. organic matter was added for the previous crop on that spot). Lime it if your soil is acid, and grow a shorter-rooted cultivar if it’s heavy.

The seeds themselves are winged and are naturally dispersed by the wind. In practice this means they blow away in the slightest breeze and one always appears to spring up from nowhere the instant you tear into the foil packet. Incidentally, I always have a good sniff at this point: the seeds have a pleasant, slightly spicy orangey aroma. If you water the bottom of the drill (the groove into which you sow) first, they take off less readily. Sow three seeds every 15cm and thin later, if needs be, to leave the strongest seedling – this is known as “station sowing”. Dropping a couple of radish seeds in between each station will soon mark the row and provide a quick crop without troubling the parsnips. If the parsnips don’t show after a month, there’s still time to re-sow.

If ever you are tempted to harvest parsnips in summer at the baby vegetable stage, it’s worth noting is that the sap in the foliage is toxic, as I once discovered to my cost. Do not allow it to come into contact with bare skin: it contains a photosensitive chemical that will react with strong sunlight to produce a chemical burn like that from its infamous relative the Giant Hogweed. The blisters are nasty.

All of which leads me onto thoughts of my mother, who is far from nasty, except when I forget Mother’s Day (only once ever, and never again…), so thank you to this website for all the flashing “what-to-cook-your-mother” reminders. I would cook her a roast dinner and include the last of the stored parsnips, but she hates the things. They do seem to be one of the foods that really polarise people, like marzipan and Marmite, though they can at least provide universal amusement on occasion.

So, if you happen to be one of those benighted parsnip-haters, you could try growing Hamburg parsley instead (otherwise known as root parsley). It’s a form of parsley with a big taproot that looks almost identical to a parsnip. Taste-wise it falls somewhere between carrot, parsley and celeriac: still sweet but not as cloying. The leaves are like coarse flat-leaf parsley and can be used to flavour stews and casseroles. It’s more popular than the parsnip in central and eastern Europe, and often turns up in borscht recipes. The photograph here is of some on a market stall in Germany, where it goes by the marvellous name of Wurzelpetersilie, which would score a lot in Scrabble.


This distinctive veg needs a long growing season and a cold winter to produce sweet, succulent roots - finally, a crop that doesn't mind a bit of frost!

Recommended varieties: "White Gem grows well on both heavy and light soils," says Charles Dowding. "Hollow Crown yields a little less than White Gem, but has an especially good flavour."

Sowing and planting: Early sowings of parsnip have a high failure rate, so avoid disappointment by sowing your 'snips with fresh seed in March or April on a still day (these papery seeds can easily be blown away). Sow in stations of 2-3 seeds 30cm apart and thin to about 15cm. For smaller roots, plant 20cm apart and thin to about 8cm. Germination is slow, so mark your rows with rapid radishes.

Cultivation: After final thinning, weed with care and mulch between rows. If soil is dry, water every 2-3 weeks.

Pests and diseases: Parsnip canker is as nasty as it sounds. It can cause the crowns to crack and rot. Modern varieties and smaller roots have higher resistance. Celery fly will blister the leaves. Pick these off on sight and destroy the affected leaves. Carrot fly can also be a problem.

Harvesting: Roots will be available from early autumn to the following mid-spring and - if you have enough room on your patch - can simply be left in the ground. Lift carefully with a fork to avoid damaging the root and cover with bracken or straw to prevent the ground from freezing over. Create space for spring planting by "heeling in".

Storage: Parsnips will last for about a month if lifted and stored in boxes of moist sand in the shed.

Extending the season: Parsnip seeds won't respond to cold conditions so don't expect to see much of this veggie in the summer months.

Growing without a veg plot: Mini parsnips can be grown in large containers of loam-based compost. Plant suitable varieties from March to early June. Lift after 14 weeks. The root will be 10-15cm long, finger-thick and very sweet.

Coumadin-Safe Vegetable Recipes

Coumadin-Safe Side Dish Recipes
The Coumadin safe vegetable side dish recipes listed on this page are under about 20-25mcg of Vitamin K per serving, so that they fit into a diet that aims for a stable total intake of about 80mcg of Vitamin K per day.

Coumadin-Safe Vegetarian Main Course Recipes
The Coumadin safe vegetarian main course recipes on this page are under 35-40mcg of Vitamin K per serving (more if they are a complete meal in themselves) in order to fit into a diet that aims for a stable total intake of about 80mcg of Vitamin K per day.

Parsnips Delicious, But Greens Can Burn

Many farmers think of parsnips as an underappreciated vegetable—they're sweet, tasty, and they store well. But this week on the Local Food Report, Elspeth Hay learns that growing them isn't as easy as it seems—and that other wild relatives may pose a risk as well.

EH: Recently at the farmers market I ran into my friend Drake Cook, they’re a farmer in Truro. Drake had small but noticeable burn marks all over their arms, and I asked Drake what had happened.

DC: The burn is called phytophotodermatitis.

EH: So this is something that I’ve never heard of before. You were burned by a parsnip.

DC: Yeah, it’s a chemical burn, and it’s any plant in the apiaceae family, which is all those umbel plants, dill…

DC: Umbrella form. So if you see Queen Anne’s Lace, that’s an umbel, and that’s actually wild carrot. And parsnip has a wild variety, wild parsnip, which looks pretty much like Queen Anne’s lace, sharper leaves, and yellow flowers instead of white, and those ones are really poisonous.

EH: This is a lot to absorb. I’ve been walking around my backyard for years bumping into Queen Anne’s lace and who knows what else in the apiaceae plant family. I asked Drake— what does this mean for us as eaters and foragers and gardeners and how easy it is to get burned? Drake says whether or not phytophotodermatitis happens and how serious it is depends on a lot of factors.

DC: The burn only happens if the sap interacts with sunlight.

EH: Apparently the sap of both wild and domestic parsnips, celery, parsley, carrots, lemons, figs, limes, and a few other plants has chemical compounds called furanocoumarins. When you’re picking these plants or brushing up against them and you break the greens, the stalk oozes this chemical. And if the sun is strong, and it touches your skin while you’re outside, it triggers the reaction. At first the spot looks like a bruise and eventually it turns into blisters. People’s sensitivity to the compound varies. But for Drake, this year’s parsnips were a perfect storm.

DC: So this year I started them a lot earlier than in years past, so in August when I did my first harvest, they were a lot bigger than they usually are in August, so the sun was a lot stronger when I picked them, and the branches of the leaves were a lot more vigorous.

EH: The bigger the plants the more developed the compound and the stronger the sun, the stronger the burn. Needless to say Drake will be wearing full body gear from now on during parsnip harvests. But they say they’re not willing to stop growing them altogether—because despite the risk, there are so many wonderful things to do with parsnips.

DC: I like to cut them up in cubes and roast them with carrots and beets and other root vegetables, or I like to fry them up on the frying pan.

EH: I make a really good creamy parsnip soup—parsnips are peppery but when you roast them with maple syrup and puree them with chicken stock and a little bit of cream you get a slightly sweet and delicious soup.

DC: I have juiced them before and when you juice them they taste like eggnog, so if you’re looking for a vegan eggnog alternative this holiday season I suggest juiced parsnips.

Episodes and Recipes

Series 101 through 113

Episode 101

The Italian Table
I’m Italian and Irish. I must admit that I owe my storytelling to my Irish ancestors. But cooking? That’s all Italian, baby. Today it’s all about the Italian Table as we go back to the cutting board today on Christina Cooks.

Episode 102

Where Do I Begin?
Healthy eating has an image problem. It’s complicated, right? Tough to change our eating style, right? Nah. It’s simple, delicious and so easy. I’ll show you how as I take you back to the cutting board, today on Christina Cooks.

Episode 103

Your Real Happy Meal
Think wellness and joy comes packaged in a brightly colored box…or yikes…a bucket? Sorry, kids but happiness begins in the kitchen where we cook fresh foods to create strength and wellness. It’s time to get back to the cutting board and cook today on Christina Cooks.

Episode 104

Fear Factor
Quick! Lock the door! We never know what could be lurking outside. We live in challenging times but if everything scares the pants off you, maybe there’s more to it? There is and it begins with your kidneys. Let’s shake off the fear that threatens to overwhelm us by going back to the cutting board today on Christina Cooks.

Episode 105

The Beat Goes On
Experts have concluded…again…that most heart disease is both preventable and treatable with lifestyle changes. Gee…do you think that’s why they’re called a 'lifestyle disease?' Maybe a few diet tweaks could keep our tickers ticking? Let’s find out as we go back to the cutting board on how we think about heart health today on Christina Cooks.

Episode 106

A Simple Supper
You’re in the driveway. Panic sets in. Inside, a hungry family awaits. Can you get a delicious, healthy meal on the table quickly? Yup. Just takes a little planning. It’s time to go back to the cutting board, today on Christina Cooks.

Episode 107

Pasta Love
Is there anything better than a steaming bowl of pasta? I think not. But wait…isn’t pasta made up of evil, fat-producing carbs? Oh, honey, you don’t know what you’re missing if you’ve taken pasta off your plate. Let’s get back to the cutting board…and the pasta pot today on Christina Cooks.

Episode 108

The Med-iterranean Table
We hear a lot about the Mediterranean and its impact on wellness. Is there more to this gorgeous region than blue seas and sunny skies? Si si si…and it’s all about what’s on your plate. Time to get back to the cutting board and discover the joys of the world’s healthiest diet today on Christina Cooks.

Episode 109

Want to Be a Happier Camper?
Cranky in the morning? Impatient with everyone? Hate waiting in line or yikes…sitting in traffic? Easily irritated? Is it just modern life or? It’s your liver, baby! Let’s get back to the cutting board and fix that little gland right up today on Christina Cooks.

Episode 110

Let’s Stop Sugarcoating the Truth
Ever notice all the ads for diabetes medicine? Do you think it’s as scary as I do? It’s become a dark cloud over all of us. But does it have to be? Nope. Not if we cook to prevent and manage it. Wait, what? We can do that? We sure can and I’ll show you how as we go back to the cutting board today on Christina Cooks.

Episode 111

Let’s Just Skip Getting Sick
Health statistics are scarier than a horror novel! And while no one gets out of life alive, we can try to live whatever moments we do have in wellness and vitality. Health begins in the kitchen and I’ll help you find your way as we go back to the cutting board today on Christina Cooks.

Episode 112

I Just Want a Little Something
We eat three squares a day. Or do we? Many of us graze all day long, going from snack to meal to snack to meal. Since it seems we eat everywhere from the opera to the gas station to the bank, let’s at least make sure what we’re eating serves our wellness. Let’s get back to the cutting board and snack well today on Christina Cooks.

Episode 113

Why Italians Live Well…A Story of Lentils
Anyone who knows me knows I am obsessed with lentils! Some say it’s being Italian, but I say it’s also about the benefits these yummy humble beans bring to my wellness. Let’s fall in love with lentils as we go back to the cutting board today on Christina Cooks.

Series 201 through 213

Episode 201

Eating Well on a Budget
If you’re one of the many people who think eating well is the province of elitists, hippies, liberals and environmental activists, think again. Clean air, pure water, rich soil along with fresh food is our birthright. We’ll explore budget-friendly options to eating well, as we go back to the cutting board today on Christina Cooks.

Episode 202

The Skinny on Fat
Is fat healthy for us? What kind of fat should we cook with? What are good fats? Should we skip added fats? It seems so confusing, right? To fat or not to fat. Actually the answer is simple…and delicious. Let’s get the lowdown on fat, as we go back to the cutting board today on Christina Cooks.

Episode 203

Does This Make Me Look Fat?
If you’ve ever asked if this “does this makes me look fat”, you probably knew the answer already. Look, you’ll find no body shaming here, but like it or not, unhealthy obesity takes a toll on wellness. It’s not about stick thin either. Let’s find our way to a healthy weight for you and your body, as we go back to the cutting board today on Christina Cooks.

Episode 204

You and Your Stress
Modern life…Work, family obligations, the news, climate change, and daily life stress has left us feeling completely frazzled and takes a big toll on our wellness. Can you cook to eliminate stress? Nope. But you can cook to manage it, and come out the other side feeling calm and serene. I’ll show you as we go back to the cutting board today on Christina Cooks.

Episode 205

Age Like a Movie Star
We have become youth-obsessed, with injections, surgery, potions and fillers to desperately hang onto our younger selves. We can end up looking like caricatures of our young faces. Truth is, beauty comes from the inside. It’s time to age gracefully…and naturally, as we go back to the cutting board today on Christina Cooks.

Episode 206

Breakfast of Champions
Your mother was right, at least about breakfast. It truly sets the tone of your day. Breakfast can slow your roll or get you in the groove to handle life’s little adventures. What’s a true breakfast of champions? I can assure you it doesn’t come in a box. Let’s start our day right as we go back to the cutting board today on Christina Cooks.

Episode 207

What a Gutsy Move
You’re either tough or you’re not. And by tough I don’t mean…mean. I mean resilient tough. Come from deep in your gut tough. Your gut. Remember that? Taking care of digestion will have you taking care of business. Let me show you just how gutsy you can be as we go back to the cutting board today on Christina Cooks.

Episode 208

The 3 C’s of Health-Carrots, Cauliflower and Cabbage
There are three veggies that create wellness like no others. Lucky for us, they’re delicious, familiar and so easy to add to our diet. No special shops no fancy ingredients…just food as Mother Nature intended. Let’s create day to day wellness…deliciously as we go back to the cutting board today on Christina Cooks.

Episode 209

Rules of the Kitchen
I love structure. My home is orderly and my kitchen is immaculate. I think of it as a sacred space. There are rules of the kitchen that you must abide by if you want to nourish with love and serenity. Sounds like a lot to ask of the kitchen, right? We’ll talk about how to ‘be’ in the kitchen as we go back to the cutting board today on Christina Cooks.

Episode 210

Cook Your Way to the Life You Want
Can your food choices help put you on the path to the life you want to lead? It sure can. Food has both a physical and an energetic quality and can enhance or impede your growth as a person. How? You’ll find out as we go back to the cutting board today on Christina Cooks.

Episode 211

Essential Plant Proteins
We are obsessed with protein. The question is, do we need as much as we think we need and do we need to eat animals to get it? Hint: cows eat grass. We’ll talk plant proteins and how to cook them deliciously as we go back to the cutting board today on Christina Cooks.

Episode 212

Fear and Loathing in the Kitchen
I’ll give it to healthy eating. We can suck the joy out of food like no one else. And fear? Yikes! Everything will kill us! Breathe, kids. It’s time to talk about the reality of healthy eating. It’s delicious, simple and nourishes you like nothing else. So stay tuned for some yummy food and serious myth busting as we go back to the cutting board today on Christina Cooks.

Episode 213

It's the Food, Silly
In our beloved country of more than 350 million people, more of us are sick than not. What a sad and terrifying thought! Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer are so commonplace, we have given them the warm, fuzzy name of lifestyle diseases. Let’s kick unhealthy habits to the curb and turn the tide on disease as we go back to the cutting board today on Christina Cooks.


Sorry Pen I have to disagree with you on this one! My Dad always sowed parsnips in February and I get better parsnips by Feb sowing. You may get a poorer germination this early in the year but the ones that do germinate knock spots off later sown parsnips.
I proved this to myself last year when I had poor germination in Feb but not much better in April. The difference was the Feb sown plants were a good size for roasting where as the April sown plants were small and spindly.

Father knows best is my motto!

My Majesty made for him a garden anew in order
to present to him vegetables and all beautiful flowers.- Offerings of Thutmose III to Amon-Ra (1500 BCE)

Parsnips (Pastinaca sativa)

Parsnips are an easy to grow root vegetable that no roast dinner can do without! They need little care and attention while they’re growing and can be left in the ground until you’re ready to use them. The flavour is improved by a touch of frost.

How to grow parsnips


For the best results, parsnips need a sunny position and fine, crumbly soil that has not been freshly manured and without too many stones. Otherwise the single root may split into many smaller ones when it hits a large object or fresh manure, causing forking and misshapen roots.

Dig over the soil and remove perennial weed roots and all stones and other large debris. Add some well-rotted compost or similar material to improve the soil structure, plus a light sprinkling of a general plant food. Rake the soil to give a level, friable surface. If your soil is stoney, prepare a long V-shaped trench at least 20cm (8in) deep and fill this with sieved soil mixed with about 50% of compost.

If your soil isn’t really suitable for growing parsnips, you can grow them in large, deep pots of multi-purpose compost or compost recommended for growing vegetables. Or grow the variety Avonresister, which tolerates poor soils and produces shorter roots.

Parsnip varieties

The following are all good, reliable varieties:

  • Albion
  • Avonresistor
  • Gladiator
  • Javelin
  • Tender and True
  • White Gem

Sowing parsnips

The seeds need to be sown where they are going to mature. Although it is often recommended to start sowing in February, it is far better to wait until the soil is warmer in March, April or even May. This way you can also help prevent parsnip canker disease.

Either take out a shallow drill 13mm (½in) deep and sow the seed thinly along it, or sow 3 seeds at 15cm (6in) intervals (stations), in rows 30cm (12in) apart. After sowing the seeds cover with fine soil and water in.

How to care for parsnips

When the seedlings are about 2.5cm (1in) high, thin them out to 15cm (6in) apart or thin to leave the strongest plant at each of the 15cm (6in) station.

Keep your parsnip crop well watered in dry weather - aim to keep the soil evenly moist without cycles of drying out and flooded, as this can lead to the roots cracking.


Parsnips are ready to lift when the foliage starts to turn yellow and die down in autumn. Carefully lift them with a garden fork without damaging them. They can be left in the ground and harvested as and when needed.

Lightly frosted roots tend to have the best flavour.


Parsnips may be susceptible to the following diseases and problems: Parsnip canker, Forking, Cracking.

alex roberts / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Serve with sourdough flapjacks, maple syrup, butter, scrambled eggs, and a side of fresh fruit for a hearty breakfast to jumpstart the day.


  • 6 pounds venison or other wild game
  • 2 pounds fatty pork shoulder
  • 1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. ground sage
  • 1 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1 c. of brown sugar
  • 1 c. golden raisins
  • 1 tbsp. dried red pepper flakes


  1. Mix all ingredients together and coarse grind.
  2. Divide into meal-sized portions and refrigerate up to a week or freeze.

7. Amend with Compost

High-intensity gardening methods don’t work well unless you are able to do so in highly fertile soil. Before the growing season starts, make sure you provide your soil with all the nutrients it’s going to need to support such a large population of plants!

Add compost in the fall, after you’ve pulled your plants, or first thing in the spring (or even both – as long as the compost is aged to prevent high nitrogen from burning your plants).

Either way, when you fertilize appropriately, your plants will grow stronger and yield more than they would otherwise. Extra resources: 100 things you can and can’t compost and build your own composting stations.

Reader Interactions


Your garden does not look like it is in shade, even partial shade, Kane. To make enough food for not only the plant itself but for us humans takes one heck of a lot of photosynthesis. That can not be done in SHADE. I disagree with the 4 hours of sun. That would be partial shade not full shade.

Hot summers can be ameliorated with Reemay!! But make no mistake, vegetables should be in full sun, or a greenhouse which happens to BE partial shade. It is wrong to show all these yummy vegetables that (come on) were not grown in shade or partial shade by your definition. Why even bother trying to grow plants in the shade that again, were never meant to be in shade?

None of the pretty pictures of vegetables were grown in the shade. Send pictures to prove? I care about making gardeners out of wannabees and this information is just wrong.

Bolting is caused by extreme changes in temperature either up or down. Not more sun. See the difference? Reemay is a gardener’s best friend. Do a video or article about Reemay!! Do an article about soil! Decomposers and then the soil organisms. How about how to compost correctly? How to make plant beds ONE TIME only by double digging. The difference between decomposed and raw organic matter? How fertilizer is not FOOD. How fertilizer is NEVER in soil unless we PUT IT THERE. Nature’s condom!

Photosynthesis takes: SUN, water, the roots need air so drainage is critical, stable temperatures (Reemay this is like a blanket for a plant bed to reduce too hot days and bring temperatures up 10 to 20 degrees F beneath the blanket for cold nights and extending the season not to mention protecting a cash crop from certain insects!!), MOVEMENT of the air…blowing the O2 off of leaves so that there is CO2 the leaf can uptake for photosynthesis…as well as mitigating fungus. Then the chemistry is as follows: Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium…the micro which I only add if the plant is showing positive symptoms of deficiency or excess: Boron, Silica, Calcium, Iron, Zinc, Magnesium, Manganese, Molybdenum, Copper, Sulfur…there is no way these elements will be found in any soil unless we put them there. The micronutrients are needed in such tiny amounts they sort of come with soils that have been improved by dumping DECOMPOSED organic matter on the surface. No compost comes with fertilizer. No compost should be used as a plant medium. All potted plants have to have just sterilized potting soil, no soil from the garden at all!

Just a few points. If you have questions or disagree we could have a discussion off of the comment forum. Telling people that they can grow in the shade and by golly growing vegetables in the shade is a good thing is a wrong wrong thing. One of my points AGAINST the silly “Food Forest” fad.

Hi Stormy! As someone cultivating and nuturing my own food forest at this present moment, I have to disagree with many of your points. And that’s okay–that’s what starts discussion, right? Some plants are designed to grow in shade–just look at the understory of any healthy forest, and you’ll see it lush with plants that can’t grow in full sun–they’ll die! The philosophy of a food forest is to mimic a forest edge–the incredibly biodiverse zone where many useful plants are cultivated. And, the trees themselves are a source of food too-we have fruit and nut trees growing in guilds so that every plant growing in that incredibly rich zone is beneficial to us. The “fad” is hardly so, since it is based on the design of the actual world which has been around since…well, the beginning of time, haha. Native Americans in my home state of Ohio cultivated food forests, for the record!

I had to look up what Reemay was–depending on a plastic floating row cover for crop protection is one of many different strategies. Some of us prefer stuff that can compost and enrich the soil, rather than get thrown away at the end. There’s so many ways to garden–not just one “right” way, right? And for those with a shady backyard, it’s good to know that you can at least try to garden, rather than not even attempting. Maybe the yields won’t be as good, like the article says, but it’s better than nothing!

Thanks for the information, Steph! I’ve been experimenting with growing some plants in some less-than-ideal locations on our property, just to see if we can get those spaces to work anyway. Worth a try! Weirdly enough, my potatoes growing in partial shade are doing so much better than the full-sun ones! I have no idea why…so many variables to consider, but it’s been interesting to observe!

If your kale isn&apost crunchy anymore, it&aposs time to crack open your freezer. Since the large stems should absorb water better than the tough leaves, try standing your kale up in a glass of water with some ice cubes in it. Or if your greens are in really bad shape, plunge them into a salad bowl with some ice water and a tablespoon of salt. If cold water doesn&apost work, try making kale chips in the oven, though you&aposll want to check them frequently, since they&aposre already dryer and will take less time in the oven to turn into chips.

Peppers are a tricky bunch, with their ability to bounce back depending on the type of pepper and the thickness of the skin. If they&aposve lost their crispness and you want them for salads, you can slice them up and try a 10 minute ice bath in a bowl. You can also pickle the peppers, even in their limp state. If they&aposve gotten too dry to return to crispness, pour boiling water over them, then allow them rehydrate for 20 minutes and rinse them in cold water before cooking. If none of the above work, puree the peppers and add them to spaghetti sauce, make hot sauce, or stuff the peppers and roast them.

Watch the video: THE HINDU Analysis, 28 August 2021 Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS DNS (January 2022).