Alongside a succulent roast turkey, some crispy roasties and a generous helping of bread sauce, parsnips are a staple of the Christmas dinner. They’re as crucial as the trusty Brussels sprout, and with good reason: their distinctive taste is a delicious addition to the mix. Sadly, the parsnip is neglected for much of the rest of the year.
We’d like to change that perception to stop us all missing out; parsnips are in season from September through to March offering plenty more opportunities for enjoyment. So we’ve chosen the parsnip as our season special this month to boost its profile and to help you make the most of it before it goes out of season.
So what’s so great about the parsnip? Well, it’s been cultivated since the times of ancient Rome and Greece when the Romans got a taste for them as they moved across Europe, and they soon became a delicacy — they were even considered to be an aphrodisiac. The Romans’ reverence is well deserved: in the world of root vegetables the parsnip is considered more nutritious than the potato and more flavourful than the carrot. And, as its flavour is enhanced by frost, it’s perfect for growing in the UK.
Parsnips have a lot to offer in terms of health benefits too. Their high level of potassium reduces blood pressure and they offer significant amounts of dietary fibre, a key component in our digestive process. Plus, their high levels of soluble fibre mean parsnips fill you up and prevent the release of ghrelin, a ‘hunger’ hormone that prompts us to snack unnecessarily.
So if we’re bringing back the parsnip and giving it the respect it deserves, what’s the best way to prepare them? Our chefs recommend making the most of the nutrients available by leaving young, small parsnips unpeeled — just gently scrub them to remove dirt and cook them whole. When dealing with older parsnips, peel them very thinly to avoid waste. Remember that uncooked parsnips keep in the fridge for around a week.
And let’s think beyond the roast: parsnips are fantastic with a spicy twist in soups, make a great base for hash browns, and can be mashed to make an alternative side with great depth of flavour.
We think that seasonal food is a fantastic way to get the nutrients we need in a delicious and purse-friendly way. That’s why we champion the use of amazing ingredients like parsnips: vegetables that have been undervalued for far too long. If you can, come and sample what we’ll be doing with fresh veg like parsnips up and down the country this February or try a new take on an old favourite at home.