Growing and Cooking Parsnips

two-fat-ladiesI loved watching the Two Fat Ladies, and if you like cooking and have not watched their shows, give them a go.  The show ended when Jennifer Paterson died of lung cancer (she smokes quite a lot on the show), but while she lived, hers was a colorful and joyous existence.  One of the things they cooked on their show was parsnips.  I had heard the word, but had never taken a bite of one.  I bought some, tried Jennifer’s recipe, and it was good.  I have tried cooking them other ways, and not so much.

The recipe from Cooking with the Two Fat Ladies, snapped from my book, is at the bottom of this post.  Yes, there is a lot of cream and butter (they are fat, duh).

This is the second year I grew parsnips, and they seem to be easy to grow.  Make a groove in the dirt, put the seeds in it, cover it up and up they sprout.  Thin them after a few weeks to about six inches per plant, and then just wait for fall to pull them up.  I had a single ten-foot row of parsnips and harvested 5.5 pounds of parsnips.  Parsnips cost $2.68/pound at Wallmart so I saved $15.  Whooo hooo!  But the flavor is better out of the garden, and they are very easy to grow so I’ll keep planting them.  If you want to grow them, the soil should be loose, and well draining.  The rotted wood chips I use in my raised bed garden held too much water (especially problematic this year) and some roots had started to rot a little.  Also, to improve their flavor, they’re supposed to be harvested after a frost or two.  I harvested early this year because I saw new and vigorous mole activity in the garden, and they tasted great anyway.

Whether bought in the store or pulled from the ground, they will have to be washed, skinned and cooked so the effort isn’t very different.  I did these chores for all of my parsnips at once, and then froze them in chunks in freezer bags:  2.5 cups per bag.  The parsnips coming out of the garden certainly had more interesting shapes than those out of the store, which are usually shaped like fat, poorly proportioned carrots.  Sometimes out of the store they are woody — this has never happened out of my garden.  When I buy parsnips I avoid the very fattest ones since they’re the ones most likely to be woody.

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The recipe I use is very similar to the Jennifer Paterson’s:

  • Toast a slice of bread (doing this first allows the toast to dry out).
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
  • Put 2 tablespoons of butter into an oven-proof cup and add 3-5 garlic cloves or ramp bulbs (to taste) and microwave until soft.  Coarsely chop the vegetables first.
  • Put the following into a food processor and blend until uniform:
    • Butter and vegetable mix
    • 2.5 cups cooked, cubed parsnips
    • 1/3 cup cream and 1/3 cup milk
    • pinch fresh nutmeg
    • salt & season to taste
  • Taste blended mixture and season as needed.  Add 2 oz chopped ham (small pieces).  Put in a small casserole dish and spread out flat.
  • Break toast up into pieces and turn to crumbs using a small food processor or blender.  I sometimes add pecans and blend them with the toast.  Add salt and seasoning as desired and a drizzle of olive oil.  Blend briefly and spread the crumbs evenly over the top of parsnip puree and gently press down.
  • Bake for about 45 minutes; check in 1/2 hour.  Pull out when nicely browned.

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Below is Jennifer Paterson’s recipe:

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