Can We Give a Round of Applause to Parsnips?
‘Oh wow! Look at those beautiful parsnips!’ said no one ever
It’s that time again: That special season when food writers regale you with the magic of root vegetables. If you’re a regular reader of food publications, you surely know the drill. Just around the time when we set our clocks back, you’ll be inundated with recipe articles on beets, turnips, rutabagas, celery root, and whatnot. There’s something comforting in this comfort-food predictability. Sort of like knowing that your weekly Medium newsletter will always, without fail, contain an essay on “7 Tell-Tale Traits of the Narcissist.”
Still, I often wonder whether people truly love root vegetables in the breathless way we talk about them in food media. Take, for instance, parsnips. Most people I know, in fact, do not love parsnips. Though to do be fair, I don’t believe they hate parsnips either. Many people find them too earthy or too sweet or too lacking in both. Maybe they bought some once, perhaps after reading an overexcited article on root vegetables. They roasted and ate them and shrugged and thought, “What’s the point?” This is the plight of the parsnip.
So I guess it’s pretty much on brand, for me, to stand here and implore you to give parsnips another try this season. I’m not going to suggest that parsnips will change your life or the way you eat or bring you closer to some rustic ideal. Parsnips grow best in cold climates, where they take a long time to mature, with their starches only turning to sugars after facing near-freezing temperatures. At their best, they are a subtle mix of nuttiness and sweetness, though they’re as much about texture as flavor.
So I guess it’s pretty much on brand, for me, to stand here and implore you to give parsnips another try this season.
Cooking parsnips is an exercise in understatement. The vegetable’s greatest virtue is likely its willingness to take a back seat to richer or more assertive ingredients. Parsnips want to be roasted with red pepper or mustard seed or cinnamon, or sauteed with mint or ginger. I roast them, along with carrots, to almost burnt, tossed in maple syrup and a splash of bourbon. I whip them together with…