The parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) is a root vegetable closely related to the carrot. It is a biennial plant usually grown as an annual. Its long tuberous root has cream-colored skin and flesh and can be left in the ground when mature as it becomes sweeter in flavor after winter frosts. In its first growing season, the plant has a rosette of pinnate, mid-green leaves. If unharvested, it produces its flowering stem, topped by an umbel of small yellow flowers, in its second growing season. By this time the stem is woody and the tuber inedible. The seeds are pale brown, flat and winged. The parsnip is native to Eurasia. It has been used as a vegetable since antiquity and was cultivated by the Romans, although there is some confusion in the literature of the time between parsnips and carrots. It was used as a sweetener before the arrival in Europe of cane sugar. It was introduced into the United States in the nineteenth century.
Parsnips have 36mg Calcium and 71 mg phosphorous per 100gm. The vitamin C level though is 17mg per 100gm which is almost 3 times the level of vitamin C in carrots.
Spacing: 3″ – 6″
Height: 18” to 24”
Optimum Soil Ph: 6.0 to 6.5
Days To Maturity: 130
Sowing Method: Outdoors
Parsnips grow best in full sun, but they also tolerate light shade. The soil should be of average fertility, moist and well-drained. For good, straight roots, dig the soil at least a foot deep, incorporating compost to lighten it and improve the texture; roots develop poorly in heavy soil. Mulch to suppress weed growth and to help retain soil moisture. While people tend to think that parsnips and carrots are very similar, the green tops that parsnips produce are much larger and thicker than those produced by carrots. Be sure to give them enough room to grow. The upside is that, once they’re growing, these tops do a nice job of shading the soil, which inhibits weed growth and helps keep the soil moist.
A common complaint among those who grow parsnips are “hairy roots,” or roots that produce thin, stringy roots along the length of the parsnip. To avoid this, don’t use manure as a fertilizer. The excess nitrogen in manure is what causes this growth. However, a bed that was amended with manure in a previous season should be fine for growing parsnips.