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Although parsnips resemble the carrot, they have a quite distinct flavor that adds to many dishes you may be preparing. They are also an excellent source of nutrition, providing many essential vitamins and minerals your body needs to function properly.
thumb_parnsip_carrot.jpgParsnips tend to look like carrots but are generally paler and have a much stronger flavor than carrots.  Because parsnips resemble carrots so much, the origins of where they were first grown and came to use as a food source are limited.  It is thought the first true record of the use of parsnips was in 1288 by the Milanese.  Parsnips were thought to be an aphrodisiac in Roman times.

Where are Parsnips Grown and How to Grow Them

Parsnips are a cold climate vegetable as frost contributes to the strong flavor of the vegetable.  It is best grown in soil that is sandy rather than soil that may contain a lot of clay or rock as this type of soil disturbs the growth of the root causing it to become short or forked.  Northern regions of the United States and Canada are found to have the best conditions for growing parsnips. 

When planting parsnips you should first prepare the soil by turning it several times and adding compost material to the soil before planting.  Parsnips are planted, preferably, the middle of or late spring as the soil begins to get warm.  It is not recommended you plant seeds that are over a year old.  It generally takes up to twenty days for the seeds to germinate.  Parsnips should be grown approximately three inches apart; they grow fine in full sun or in partially shaded areas.  Harvesting of parsnips is after a few weeks of hard frost conditions as the cold helps to convert the starch, which is found in the root, into sugar which gives it a sweet taste. 

Nutrients Found in Parsnip

Parsnips are rich in Vitamin C, which is an essential vitamin to help build a strong and healthy immune system to help ward off infections such as the common cold.  They are also a very source of folic acid, vitamin B6 and Vitamin E.  Parsnips are a good source of potassium as well which was found in a study conducted at Harvard Medical School that potassium is credited for lowering blood pressure and can contribute to the regulation of hypertension. [1]  Vitamin B6 is an essential vitamin for helping to maintain a healthy and well functioning central nervous system. 

Healthy Ways to Prepare Parsnip

Parsnips, like carrots, should be cooked to help release the vitamins and minerals within the root of the vegetable.  Steaming, boiling, and roasting of parsnips is generally considered the healthiest ways to prepare them; by steaming them the vitamins are released but the vegetable is not over-cooked; this enhances the flavor and increases the vitamin and mineral intake.  Over-cooking may decrease the vitamins and mineral found in the parsnip.  Roasting parsnips with a small amount of olive oil and fresh seasoning is also an excellent way to prepare them; the rich flavor of the vegetable is preserved as well as the vitamins and minerals within the root of the vegetable. 

Health Benefits of Parsnip

A diet that includes parsnips has many health benefits.  Vitamin C, which is found in large amounts in parsnips, is an excellent source to help strengthen and sustain a healthy immune system.  Folic acid that is found in parsnips is a good natural source to help prevent birth defects in unborn babies; women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should increase their intake of folic acid to help ensure the health of their unborn child.  Parsnips contain an excellent amount of Vitamin B6 which has been shown to be essential for maintaining a healthy central nervous system and strong immune system.  In an article released by the Harvard Medical School stated that Vitamin B6 boosts the immune system which then helps to attack and destroy free radicals that may cause cellular damage and cause infection and cancer.

Although parsnips resemble the carrot, they have a quite distinct flavor that adds to many dishes you may be preparing.  They are also an excellent source of nutrition, providing many essential vitamins and minerals your body needs to function properly and efficiently.