Not to Be Snippy, But Have You Tried Parsnips Yet?
Parsnips are wonderful vegetables that definitely deserve to be added to your repertoire, if you haven't tried them yet. These are the creamy-white/yellow carrot-looking root vegetables you've probably seen in the produce section of your grocer, but may have passed by because you didn't know much about them. Maybe you thought they were anemic carrots. They're not. And they're definitely worth getting to know.
Parsnips are sweet-fleshed carrot-like roots vegetables in the parsley and carrot family. They're native to the Mediterranean region, and are usually most abundant from late winter to early spring. You can cook them just as you would carrots; by roasting, boiling, steaming, sautéing, etc., and they make a great addition to any recipe where you might use carrots. Think soups, stews, stir-fries, roasts, salads—use your imagination.
So what's so great about parsnips, and why are they worth your time? Two reasons: they're packed with nutrition, and they taste exquisite. In fact, if you like roasted carrots, I'm willing to bet you'll love roasted parsnips even more. They're actually higher in sugar content than carrots, on a par with a banana in some instances.
But they also supply a lot of insoluble and soluble fiber, to help keep you feeling full and to aid with regularity. Some people find that they're better than prunes or bran at ensuring bowel regularity. Soluble fiber also helps lower cholesterol levels, and contributes to steady blood sugar levels. And that helps keep you feeling fuller, longer.
A single half-cup of parsnips provides three grams of fiber. They're also rich in folic acid and potassium, another heart-healthy nutrient. Of course, folic acid is a B-vitamin that's crucial for pregnant women and the rest of us, too. Folic acid plays an important role in maintaining cardiovascular health and may also help prevent cognitive decline among aging people.
Choose firm, unblemished roots and store loosely wrapped in plastic in your refrigerator vegetable keeper for weeks, if not months. To prepare, peel gently and slice into uniform-size pieces. If you're uncertain about this slightly unfamiliar vegetable, try roasting them the first time. Roasting brings out their extraordinary combination of sweetness and slight nuttiness.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a roasting pan with parchment paper. Cut peeled parsnips into approximately three-inch by one-half-inch pieces and toss with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Arrange in a single layer and bake 20-40 minutes, depending on the size of pieces. Turn once during cooking. Allow to cool and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Enhance savory flavors by sprinkling with fresh or dried parsley, thyme or rosemary, or play up their sweetness with a little nutmeg and/or ginger. Serve and enjoy! I bet you'll find you can't resist this wonderful, healthful vegetable.