There's something very old-fashioned about
parsnips. They conjure up images of cold winter evenings and warm
comforting broths supped in front of a blazing wood fire. Nowadays
parsnips are available all year through, but many people still feel they
belong to winter, adding their characteristic flavor to soups and stews.
Parsnips are related to carrots, similarly sweet but with a distinct
earthy flavor that blends well with other root vegetables and is also
enhanced with spices and garlic.
History : Parsnips have a long
history. The Romans grew and cooked them to make broths and stews. When
they conquered Gaul and Britain, the Romans discovered that root
vegetables grown in northerly areas had a better flavor then those grown
in the south. They may have been the first to decree that parsnips
should be eaten after the first frost!
Throughout the Dark Ages and early Middle
Ages, parsnips were the main starchy vegetable for ordinary people (the
potato had yet to be introduced). Parsnips were not only easy to grow
but were a welcome food to eat during the lean winter months. They were
also valued for their sugar content. Sweet parsnip dishes like jam and
desserts became part of traditional English cookery, and they were also
commonly used for making beer and wine. Parsnip wine is still one of the
most popular of the country wines, with a beautiful golden color and a
rich sherry-like flavor.
Nutrition : Parsnips contain moderate
amounts of vitamins A and C, along with some of the B vitamins. They are
also a source of calcium, iron and potassium.