What are parsnips? When trying to answer that question, a few things come to mind: a weird cousin of the turnip, seriously pale carrots, and a funky-looking vegetable with a hard-to-place flavor. None of these actually describe what parsnips are or provide any indication of how to incorporate them into recipes, so I figured it's about time I share what this tasty veggie is so you can start enjoying them.

What Parsnips ~Technically~ Are

Scientifically, parsnips have the Latin name pastinaca sativa. They're members of the Apiaceae or Umbelliferae genum, a family of plants that includes coriander, cumin, carrots and celery. 

If you've always thought parsnips and carrots were the same thing, you aren't alone. Historians estimate that parsnips have been cultivated since Ancient Greek and Roman times, but they can't be sure because they were classified as carrots for a long time. 

For those of you who want to add parsnips to your personal garden, they are biennial plants that are good at surviving winter months. After you plant the seeds, seedlings should emerge within 2-3 weeks. For more detailed instructions on growing parsnips at home, consult The Old Farmer's Almanac.

What's So Great About Parsnips

farmer's market, fresh vegeatables, local produce, parsnips, vegetable
Sam Jesner

While it's fascinating that carrots, cumin, celery, and parsnips are in the same genetic family despite being so different, it's definitely more practical to know the health benefits of parsnips that make them worth incorporating into your diet. 

Like other root vegetables, parsnips are high in fiber, which help you stay regular and fuller for longer. Additionally, they're high in potassium, and vitamins C and E, which aid your immune system. For expecting mothers, the folate in parsnips can help decrease the risk of birth defects in their developing baby. 

Additionally, by replacing less healthy foods like fried potatoes or bread with parsnips, you boost the overall nutritional value of whatever you're eating in general. 

How to Eat Parsnips

Call me basic, but I'm so excited it's fall, because that means that it's root vegetable season. Roasted carrots, sweet potato fries, and beet salads make delicious side dishes that steal the show from fall-flavored main dishes. Because parsnips are also root vegetables, they incorporate seamlessly into a tray of roasted fall vegetables, but they can also stand alone as a side dish in their own right. 

They have a flavor similar to carrots, turnips, and other root vegetables, but also have some of the delightful bitterness and bite of a radish, which sets them apart from their peers. Because of this, they add depth to the flavor profile of whatever you make with them. If you're trying to impress someone, serving parsnips makes you seem like you know what you're doing.

Beyond simply roasting them, parsnips make great additions to soups, dips, salads, even desserts! For a slightly healthier, more flavorful French fry, try making parsnip fries.

daikon, tuber, parsnip, pasture, vegetable
Becky Hughes

Clearly, parsnips have not gotten the love they deserve. Whether they've been mistakenly lumped together with carrots, brushed aside as weird and foreign, or just ignored at the grocery store, parsnips have definitely gotten the short end of the stick. 

You have the power to change this, and improve your life in the process. Parsnips are both nutritious and delicious, and incorporating them into your diet will make you feel like an adult.