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Several weeks ago on Burke’s Backyard Don made some disparaging comments about parsnips. He said that he wouldn’t feed parsnips to pigs, and that any parent who feeds them to their children should be shot. These remarks prompted a huge groundswell of support for the humble parsnip. Viewers sent letters, recipes and even parsnip poems! Don admitted that he may have been a little harsh, and so the parsnip was featured on this week’s program.

Growing Tips

Parsnips (Pastinaca sativa) grow best in a crumbly, open soil. Sow in February to September in hot areas, July to March in temperate climates, and August to February in cold zones. They take 18-20 weeks to mature, and can be harvested throughout summer, autumn and winter. Spread the harvest by pulling some parsnips early, and leaving the others in the ground. However, it is best not to let them get too big and woody. After harvest, remove the tops and store in the crisper section of the fridge. Popular parsnip varieties include Hollow Crown and White Gold.

White Carrots

Rosemary Stanton was inspired to write a book on vegetables when a checkout operator described the parsnips that she was buying as white carrots!

Rosemary thinks more people would enjoy parsnips if they chose only the small young ones that are available in winter and early spring. Young parsnips are high in natural sugars, so they taste sweet and caramelise beautifully when baked. Baked parsnips are great served with roast lamb or roast chicken. Rosemary demonstrated how to bake parsnips and also how to make delicious parsnip souffle.

Baked parsnips

parsnips, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
1-2 teaspoons olive oil

1. Heat an oven dish, then add the olive oil and parsnips.
2. Shake until the parsnip surfaces are coated with oil
3. Roast for about 25 minutes (until they’re golden brown)

Parsnip soufflé

400g parsnips, peeled
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup low fat milk
1 teaspoon mild mustard
2 egg yolks
4 egg whites
cheese or dried breadcrumbs

Steam parsnips until soft.
1. To make the sauce: melt the butter and add the flour, then add the low fat milk. Stir until the sauce boils and thickens and then add a teaspoon of mild mustard.
2. Puree the parsnips in a food processor, add the sauce and the egg yolks.
3. Beat the egg whites until they’re stiff. Fold some into the parsnip mixture then gently add the rest.
4. Spoon the mixture into greased, individual soufflé dishes. Sprinkle with cheese or dried breadcrumbs and bake in a moderate oven for 20 minutes.
5. Serve parsnip soufflé with a green salad and some bread as a meal in itself, or team it with roast meat and a green vegetable.

Further reading

See Rosemary’s book ‘Vegetables’ (Allen & Unwin, 2000, ISBN 1865082155, $39.95). It is an A-Z of vegetables, describing the history of each vegetable plus information on choosing, storing, preparing and cooking them. The vegetable paintings in the book are by Nerida de Jong.

Parsnip Soup

This recipe for spicy parsnip soup is from Gail Thomas of Geelong in Victoria. Serve it as the first course at a winter dinner party, or as a delicious, hearty main meal.


1 large onion, peeled and diced
750gm young parsnips, peeled and sliced
40g butter
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
salt and pepper, to taste
1 litre chicken stock
juice of 1/2 lemon
150ml cream


1. Heat the butter and water in a large pot. When the butter has melted, add the onions and parsnips. Cook until the water evaporates and the parsnips have softened (about 5 minutes).
2. Add the coriander, cumin and turmeric. Add pepper and salt to taste. Stir through, and cook for 5 minutes.
3. Add the stock and bring to the boil.
4. Turn the heat down and simmer gently until the parsnips are tender (about 20 minutes).
5. Blend the mixture until smooth then add the lemon juice. Return to the heat and stir in the cream. (Note: don’t
boil, or the soup will curdle.)
6. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley and serve. 

Parsnip Chips

Although Don thinks it’s a crime to feed parsnips to children, Geoff Jansz reckons the kids will love these parsnip chips.


parsnips, peeled and grated
oil, for frying
salt, to taste


1. Drop the parsnips into hot oil and stir
2. Cook until golden brown
3. Strain, then spread out on kitchen paper to drain
4. Add salt to taste, and serve with your favourite cut of meat, as a garnish or as a side dish