Nov 22 2010

Poor Parsnips

Published by at 3:23 pm under Uncategorized

Last week food writer Kathy Gunst invited me to  Central Middle School in South Berwick, Maine to meet with a group of  delightful, curious,  first, second, and third graders. Our mission was to expose kids to a new way of experiencing foods using their sense of smell, touch and sight and finishing with taste. The event was a huge success and the school, teachers and volunteers were terrific. But, here is one surprise, we were in three different classrooms with over fifty young children and not one of these kids could identify a parsnip. They knew what a kiwi was, and a pomegranate but when a parsnip came out of the bag they all thought it was  rotten carrot.

Parsnips were once a very popular root vegetable replaced by potato and carrots. Like a carrot it is sweet and they actually get sweeter with storage as the starch turns to sugar. They are a good source of vitamins, minerals and fiber. If you or your family likes carrots you should reintroduce parsnips too.   Here’s how: when shopping for parsnips I prefer the small ones, because the larger ones have a coarse woody center that will need to be removed before cooking. I like parsnips roasted or mashed;  I think mashing and or pureeing actually enhances their flavor, try it at least once instead of potatoes.

To roast parsnips: Peel 1 1/2 pounds of parsnips and cut into lengthwise slices. Toss with a tablespoon of your favorite oil and salt and pepper and roast in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes until golden and a bit crispy, longer if the slices are very thick. Serve warm.

To mash parsnips: Peel 1 1/2 pounds of parsnips, cut into 1 inch pieces. Bring 2 cups water to a boil, add parsnips, cover tightly. Reduce heat, simmer 25-30 minutes until very tender. Drain. Mash cooked parsnips with a hand masher or whip with a mixer until light and fluffy along with 2 tbsp butter, salt and pepper to taste. Add 1 tablespoon minced parsley if desired. Serve warm

Storage: Whole parsnips can be kept refrigerated for about two weeks.

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