Europeans brought the parsnip to the United States in the early 1600s. The first frost of the year converts the parsnip's starch to sugar and gives it a pleasantly sweet flavor. Fresh parsnips are available year-round with the peak period during fall and winter. They can be refrigerated in a plastic bag for up to 2 weeks.
They may look like albino carrots, but parsnips have an identity - and a flavor - distinct from their orange cousins. This pale root vegetable, with its sweet, nutty flavor, makes a perfect side to a warm, winter meal. During frosty weather, some of the parsnip's starch converts to sugar, which gives it that naturally sweet and nutty flavor.
Size matters and, in this case, small to medium is better. Avoid limp, shriveled, or spotted parsnips and reach instead for those that are firm and well shaped. Stored in a plastic bag, this versatile vegetable will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator. After peeling and trimming the ends, you can boil and mash parsnips - just as you would potatoes - or saute, bake, steam or blanch them and toss them in a salad after they cool.
Parsnips can also be tasty additions to soups and stews; just put them in toward the end of the cooking time so they don't turn mushy.
In the Middle Ages, European babies sucked on parsnip roots as pacifiers. Adults ate them with preserved fishes and eels.
Whipped Carrots and Parsnips Recipe Card
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