Q. What are parsnips?

A. Parsnips are commonly grown in Europe and in many northern areas of the United States, but are not a popular garden vegetable in the South. They are grown for their delicate tasting, carrot-like roots which can grow up to 15 inches long and 3 to 4 inches across at the top. The plants are biennials but are grown as annuals and should be harvested before the second year's leaves start to grow.

Q. Can they be grown?

A. Yes. Plant parsnips in late summer or early fall so they will mature under cold weather conditions. The roots take l00 to 120 days from seed to maturity and must be subjected to cold near the freezing point to change the starch to sugar and give the parsnip its flavor. Parsnip roots may be left in the ground all winter or dug out in late fall and stored in the refrigerator. Gardeners who have had experience with parsnips indicate the flavor is enhanced if the roots are left in the ground throughout the winter.

Q. How are parsnips used?

A. Parsnips can be parboiled or steamed in their skins, then peeled and sliced lengthwise. One popular way of preparing parsnips is to pan glaze them with butter and a touch of brown sugar and nutmeg. They taste much like candied sweet potatoes. Another method is to puree boiled parsnips, blend in butter and cream and top with bread crumbs.

Microwave on high for five to seven minutes.

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