Parsnip: planting cultivation maintenance and harvesting

Parsnip (Parsnip sativa) belongs to the family of Apiaceae. It is a biennial herb that is grown as an annual for its edible fleshy root, creamy white to pure white depending on the variety. A few notes of hazelnut punctuate its typical flavor, subtly spicy and very slightly sweet, which more or less evokes that of celeriac. This ancient vegetable long neglected returns to our stalls where it is particularly present in autumn and winter. Vitamin-rich, rich in potassium, in fibre, this root vegetable contributes to the proper functioning of the body. Let’s see how to grow parsnips to enjoy a good harvest that can be kept for several months in the cellar.

Plant parsnips

The sowing period is located between March and May. In Brittany, in our south-east, south and south-west regions, you can sow parsnips in September. It is necessary to install the seeds in loosened garden soil, enriched with manure or well-ripened compost, as parsnips need a fairly rich growing medium.

It is necessary to draw one or more furrows with a depth of between 1 and 1.5 cm, then distribute the seeds in pairs of 4 or 5, these must be distanced from each other by 15 cm. All that remains is to cover the seedlings with a little sieved soil and then to water with a fine rain. Care is taken to keep the soil moist until emergence.

To avoid having to sow, nothing prevents you from opting for plants in pots that you buy from a producer or a garden centre. Parsnips can be planted between March and September, in loosened, nutrient-rich soil. Regions with a mild and humid climate are ideal for growing this root vegetable because that is where the best results are obtained. But it can however be grown anywhere else and you should not deprive yourself of it.

It exists different varieties of parsnipsthe most famous of which are:

  • The round parsnipby far the earliest, has a diameter between 11 and 15 cm.
  • The long parsnipwhich can reach a good forty centimeters, this almost white root vegetable is very pleasant in the mouth and particularly tender.
  • The Guernsey Parsnipsand demi-long whose flavor is very pleasing. It is the most commonly cultivated variety, partly for its very pleasant taste, partly for its yield.
  • The Panais White Gem, with a fairly short, stocky white root, with highly appreciated taste qualities. This variety of parsnip is particularly well suited to cultivation in heavy soil.

Note that the frost somewhat accentuates the sweet flavor of the parsnips.

Growing Parsnips

Parsnip cultivation involves a good soil preparation upstream, which requires digging to a depth of 60 cm, no less, in order to loosen the crop soil to a sufficient height since this root vegetable is capable of sinking nearly half a meter. We take the opportunity to remove all the stones (so as not to harvest crooked roots), as well as weeds with their roots and various plant debris. Let’s not forget that loose soil guarantees a better drainage and that this one is indispensable to grow parsnips under good conditions.

Parsnips should be planted in a loose, deep, cool, well-drained, humus-rich soil and preferably to pH neutral. He likes them sunny exposures. However, it is recommended to reserve a semi-shaded place for it in the most southern regions. It is a root vegetable quite rustic, able to withstand negative temperatures. However, this cousin of the carrot likes mulch.

Note that the gardener has every interest in protect his arms and legs by covering clothes if he has to work in the rows of parsnips because he can suffer from burns due to the psoralens present in the sap of these plants. This is’agents photosensibilisants which can cause sometimes severe skin reactions in the most sensitive people. The sun’s rays aggravate these reactions. It should also be noted that people allergic to pollen may show signs ofallergy oral of which certain proteins are at the origin, in particular if they consume raw parsnips. Cooking degrades allergenic proteins, it limits immunological reactions.

Despite this, the fact remains that Parsnip is a root vegetable (and not a starch, contrary to what some people think) good for health since it is, among other things, well supplied with trace elements, minerals, carbohydrates, vegetable proteins, vitamins K1, E, C, and group B vitamins. It is also useful for combating constipation and bloating since it stimulates intestinal transit. Low in lipids, low in calories, it is rich in water. Of course, to be able to benefit from all the nutritional benefits of this root vegetable with antioxidant properties, it is necessary to consume it regularly, hence the interest of planting it in your vegetable garden.

Caring for your parsnips

Parsnip is not not very difficult to grow and is moderately demanding.


No question of being thrifty: parsnips needs water. Watering must be regular, and particularly sustained in our southernmost regions, just like everywhere else as soon as the mercury panics or we go through a period of drought (which is more and more frequent). In fact, he has need for heat and humidity to develop. But that’s no reason to drown it, because excess water leads to disease.

In spring and September, parsnip seedlings are recommended to be watered in the morning. Evening watering is preferred during the summer.


Throughout its growth, the parsnip must be able to benefit from soil capable of meeting its needs. This is why it is essential to make regular additions of fertilizer like a plant manure once a month or every three weeks. The plantations must receive sufficient potash and D’nitrogen throughout their growth, but nitrogen inputs should be reduced as soon as the harvest period has started. On the other hand, we maintain the potassium intake in order to promote the concentration of reserves at the root level.

Note that bone meal is another essential natural fertilizer for parsnips during their development period since it provides phosphorus. It is only useful if the garden soil does not have enough of it.

Caution of don’t have a heavy hand and to avoid too frequent fertilization. An excess of nutrients can be counter-productive and for the same reason, you must always think about diversifying the nutrients that you bring to your plantations. What matters most is to avoid deficiencies.


It is useful to lay a mulch at the foot of the parsnips in November or December, even if this root vegetable has a certain hardiness. This precaution protects the roots against the cold, but in the case of parsnips, it is resorted to mainly because it makes the uprooting easier when done in winter on frost hardened ground.

Pests and diseases

The carrot fly (Listronotus oregonensis) is a parasite that can also colonize parsnips, these two vegetables belonging to the same botanical family. This pest can cause serious damage if we do not intervene quickly. In the event of an infestation, start by uprooting the diseased plants and then treat the rest of the parsnip crop with a mixture made up of 250 g of wood ashes (no barbecue ashes) macerated for 24 hours in 5 liters of water. Of course, only the clear water that can be recovered after this maceration time is used, when the ashes are concentrated at the bottom of the container.

With regard to parsnip diseases, we can deplore the bacterial blight leaves. These show brown spots and then fade. The disease compromises plant growth. This scourge can be prevented by opting for crop rotation. It is also advisable to avoid spraying the foliage during watering and of course, it is recommended to sow only certified and healthy seeds.

About the root rot, it is visually identifiable by the brownish colored lines it causes on parsnips. The roots soften and become rubbery. Very problematic, this disease caused by a insufficient drainage continues to progress after harvest, leading to the formation of a white mold if the parsnips are stored in a cold, humid environment. To avoid root rot, it is essential to plant parsnips in well-drained soil, to avoid excessive watering and not to over-fertilize.

L’powdery mildew and the mildewcommon in many gardens, are among the fungal diseases well known to all gardeners. Parsnips can pay the price like many other plants in the vegetable garden. Prevention goes through nettle manure sprays.

As to parsnip canker, it is caused by a pathogenic fungus. This fungal disease causes reddish-brown spots on roots and also attacks plant foliage. It is easily transmitted to various species of nearby cultivated plants. Prevention involves moderating humidity, systematically uprooting weeds (potential vectors of contamination) and crop rotation. Parsnips affected by this canker must be destroyed.

Harvesting parsnips from the vegetable garden

After sowing, you have to wait 16 to 20 weeks to start harvesting the first parsnips, ideally as the family needs them. Thus, we can consume this fresh root vegetable between October and March, enough to enjoy it all autumn and all winter without having to store it, since spending the off-season in the ground poses no problem for these herbaceous plants. rustic.

After harvest, it is a garden product that can be kept for a good twenty days in the fridge crisper if we leave it whole. For a longer shelf life, you can cut the parsnips into rings and blanch them for a few minutes in boiling water. Once completely cooled, they can be placed in bags to be frozen. Another solution is to harvest your entire crop of parsnips on a non-rainy day, let them dry in the sun for a few hours, then store them in the cellar after depositing them in crates and covered with sand. They can be kept like this for several months.

Parsnips definitely deserve to be on the menu. Moreover, it has been back in the limelight for some time thanks, in particular, to the organic sector, and more and more amateur gardeners are reserving a place for it in the vegetable patch. Raw or cooked, parsnips can be eaten with or without its skin. But to benefit from all its nutrients, it is better not to peel it. A simple brushing under clear water is enough.

Different cooking methods are perfectly suited to it, in broth, roasted, steamed, the latter solution being preferred to preserve the maximum of nutrients. It can be eaten alone or mixed with other vegetables, but it can also be combined with fruit if you like sweet and salty. Finally, let’s note that it goes particularly well with garlic, nutmeg and fresh cream… In short, a thousand and one recipes can highlight parsnips, and we recognize that it is well worth it.

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