Praise For The Parsnip

parsnip-seed-packet   Parsnips are one of our favourite root vegetables; closely related to the carrot and parsley root, they have their own unique flavour profile and an unmistakable nutty sweetness that comes through loud and clear. Parsnips can be roasted, glazed, mashed or pureed, they are especially good peeled in strips and deep fried for parsnip chips. You can even eat them raw, sliced thin for crudité or in a matchstick for salads, they have a peppery bite that you don’t get from them when cooked.  This root vegetable is native to Europe and Asia, and was not really introduced to North America until the eighteenth century, brought to Canada by the French, and to the Thirteen Colonies by the British. But it has a long and significant role in the cuisine of ancient civilizations, highly valued and cultivated by the ancient Greeks and Romans, and because of its naturally occurring sugars, was a source of sugar in Europe long before sugar cane. Interestingly, although at one time the parsnip was considered an aphrodisiac, and made into wine, it is less commonly used in Italian cuisine, although it does feature prominently in an indirect way; parsnips are fed in great quantities to their livestock by Italian pig farmers to sweeten the meat, especially those used for Parma ham.   heirloom_parsnip_seeds Parsnips are often considered a fall vegetable because they are typically not harvested until after the first frost. Indeed, they do well in cold conditions as they actually become sweeter after the first frost, making them a natural fit for Canadians. Now that they are appearing on our shelves, look for medium sized parsnips-too large will be woody and tough and too small are kind of stringy and a hassle to cook with. As with any vegetable, avoid parsnips that are soggy or wilted. Store them in the fridge until use, but avoid freezing them; like potatoes, they do not recover well. parsnip-crisps   In terms of nutritive benefits, parsnips are well on their way to being a super food; high in phyto-nutrients, minerals such as iron, copper, calcium, manganese, phosphorous and potassium and dietary fibre. They are also a good source of Vitamin C, with a 100g serving providing 30% of your RDA, and rich in B vitamins like vitamin B-6 and thiamin and vitamin K and Vitamin E.   You can prepare parsnips just about any way you like, but they do cook pretty quickly. Although they look like a carrot, they cook a lot faster, so if steaming them, for example, cut down on your cooking time or they will become water logged. Roasting parsnips really brings out their rich, sweet flavor, especially once they have caramelized. And if boiling, simmering or steaming, save the cooking the water (you can freeze it) for your next soup or stew, you will not believe how flavourful-and vitamin rich-the water is.   article-1094154-02C75186000005DC-481_468x411   Remember that boiling veggies causes them to lose some of their water-soluble vitamins, so simmering and steaming are preferred methods, although if you use the cooking water in another application it’s all good. Here is a recipe for a super simple parsnip soup that you can whip up in no time. It is elegant and refined, and has a delicate sweet taste that marries beautifully with a little cumin and ginger.   Parsnip Soup makes 6 servings   2 tablespoons butter 1 small onion, chopped ¼ cup white wine (optional) 3 medium parsnips, peeled and diced 4 cups water 1 bay leaf ¼ tsp  ground cumin 1 tsp ground ginger fresh grated allspice or nutmeg salt and white pepper to taste   Place saucepan on medium heat and add butter and onions. Cook for about 5 minutes. Deglaze with the wine and stir in parsnips. Add water and bay leaf and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes or until parsnips are soft. Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. If there are any tough core pieces that don’t blend, remove them or if you are really picky pass the soup through a strainer and discard solids. Return soup to low heat and stir in cumin and ginger. Season to taste. Garnish with a little fresh-grated allspice or nutmeg,

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