Chelsea Green Publishing

The Blogging Community at Chelsea Green

What Is The Secret Of Parsnips?

Whenever I go to a big supermarket that carries fresh food, I always find these long, wrinkled, ugly, rooty-looking things called parsnips on display. Someone must like them or they wouldn’t be there, but I can’t find anyone who admits to eating them, or anyone who knows what the attraction might be. It certainly isn’t phallic, as carrots sometimes get portrayed.  What is the allure of parsnips? We grew parsnips once. They were slow to germinate so weeds got a head start on them. As for taste, I am not saying they weren’t edible if cooked with enough butter, but that is kind of true of cardboard too. Parsnips are “best” in early spring after having spent the entire winter in cold or even frozen soil. The cold enhances their taste which tells me that in the fall they must taste terrible. Nowadays, marketers sometimes refrigerate fall-harvested parsnips before selling them. Parsnips have been cultivated and cherished at least back as far as ancient Roman times. The most obvious reason for their popularity is that they are available to eat before any new growth arrives in spring, a real advantage before modern storage methods came along. But there are other roots in the ground that also survive winter. Why parsnips?  Help me out here. What little solid history I can find about the parsnip only increases the mystery.  In Gardening For Profit, an interesting old book by Peter Henderson, first published in 1867, the author goes to great length pointing out that parsnips are not a profitable crop for market gardeners to grow. But then in an about face, he tells about a year when for some reason a shortage of parsnips occurred in early spring when they were most in demand. The price rose so high that Henderson and his crew of workers actually used “crowbars, picks, and wedges” to pry the roots out of the half-frozen ground. He sold $800 worth of parsnips from less than an acre. Remember, this was in the 1860s! How much money would that be today? Normally, an acre of parsnips sold then for around $200.  My question: who liked parsnips enough to pay that kind of money for them? Read the rest at Gene’s blog, and find out what his other readers have to say to his root-vegetable cynicism.

sanctuaryoftrees Gene Logsdon is the author of, most recently, A Sanctuary of Trees: Beech Nuts, Birdsongs, Baseball Bats, and Benedictions


A Small Thing But Maybe Not

All summer I raved and ranted at the squirrels that were eating the corn in my crib. I was particularly concerned because the drought seemed to be making sure this year’s crop was going to be a bust. I did not look forward to buying corn at drought-inflated prices just to keep squirrels fat eating […] Read More..

No Two Garden Years Alike

I kept reassuring Carol this year that we would get plenty of beans, and for once I was right. I am presently sick of breaking beans. I break them in real time and I break them in my dreams. We have them by the bushel. All of a sudden the vines just exploded. Unlike Russ’s […] Read More..

Gene Logsdon: Roundup Ready Alfalfa — Monsanto’s Big Goof?

I don’t know how to jigger genes around to make biotech alfalfa or anything else, but I do know a thing or two about making alfalfa hay. Whether Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa is harmful to health or not I don’t know either and wonder if anyone does for sure. But the majority of scientists, after […] Read More..

Tasty Meat Comes From The Kitchen, Not the Field

Furious arguments sweep back and forth over the landscape about whether pasture-raised meat is better or worse than corn-fed meat. I think pasture-raised might be healthier food depending on the quality of the pasture, but when the debate focuses on taste, oh my. Years and years ago, a similar argument was popular: whether hogs fed […] Read More..