Growing parsnip – it’s like pulling teeth

I grew a parsnip in my garden this winter, in fact I grew two. I know what you’re thinking…two? How pathetic, but two little parsnips grew quietly side by side and I didn’t even know it. Well I did know because I remember putting the seeds into the soil but I’d forgotten all about them because the little garden bed was so productive that by the time things were in full swing, my two little parsnips had been lost in the jungle of plants.

early in the season

It wasn’t until I started preparing the garden bed for the next succession crop that I saw the large soft serrated leaves and remembered that I’d planted a couple of parsnip seeds earlier in the season. The seeds were given to me by my neighbour Vicki who got them from the Albury Seed Savers group during a holiday last year.

As I gave the leaves a pull I was surprised at how stubborn they were. They just wouldn’t budge. So I coaxed them out, actually levered them out using brute force and a shovel and was more than surprised when I pulled out a giant molar shaped parsnip with long dangly roots. I was even more surprised when they weighed in at 400gm which meant they weren’t that little after all and would be enough to use as the main ingredient in a recipe.

So what could I do with parsnip. Make soup? Bake it with other vegies? Mash? Too boring but what if I was to mix the parsnip with pecans and make some delicious parsnip and pecan fritters? Now that sounded more like it.

I’m really starting to appreciate and enjoy the convenience of cooking with fresh ingredients straight from the garden and as I keep my pantry stacked with all the essentials, I usually have most ingredients at my fingertips. Pecans are not usually something one has a supply of in the pantry simply because they don’t keep all that well but lucky for me, I still had a kilo of them stashed in the freezer which I’d picked up from an organic farm and frozen fresh in their  shells. This meant I had everything I needed to make the recipe fresh that night.

Now, you might think that parsnip and pecan sound like a weird combination and honestly I was a bit sceptical. But it was really good  because pecans have a delicate flavour that don’t overpower the parsnip and the sweetness of parsnip  tends to enhance the flavour of other ingredients. Pecans also soften nicely as they cook.

And my two little parsnips were sweet, just as they should be and even though I didn’t actually know I’d left them in the ground apparently I’d left them in the ground for just the right amount of time because parsnip plants need cold soil conditions to convert the starch stored in their roots into sugar. But I’m sure you can eat them if you get this bit wrong.

So will I grow parsnip again next year? Most definitely, although I’d grow a lot more next time because I really did nothing to them apart from adding a bit of water after putting a couple of free seeds in the ground. They’re also quite expensive to buy and currently sell for about $9 a kilo so another great reason to grow your own.

And the fritters, they were delicious so here’s the recipe. Give it a try and see what you think.

Parsnip and Pecan Fritters

Simmer 375g of parsnip chunks until tender (about 15 to 20 mins). Drain off the water and puree or mash. Add 1 fresh egg, 1/4 plain flour, a tbls chopped parsley, 50g melted butter, 1/4 cup milk, 1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans and a good pinch of cayenne pepper and sea salt. Mix.

Heat some oil in a heavy-based frypan and cook large spoonfuls of the mixture until golden, flattening them and turning each fritter only once. Drain on paper towel and serve with sweet chilli or dipping sauce.

Dipping sauce

Mix 3/4 cup sour cream with a tbls of chopped chives, a tsp of lemon juice, 2 tsp of sweet chilli sauce and a few drops of Tabasco sauce. Chill until ready to use.

Served with small baked potatoes and warm beetroot and fennel salad.

Back to the making of a water garden shortly…..

2 responses to “Growing parsnip – it’s like pulling teeth

  1. sounds tempting, I really love parsnips but as you point out, $9 plus a kilo is a bit pricey; might even investigate growing some ………I have a carrot that has come up in my garden in a similar way, I assumed it would be too old but might dig it up and see what happens.

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