Parsnips are a great vegetable for the winter months.
No Christmas dinner would be complete without a side order of parsnips. The flavoursome roots are good roasted, or added to soups and stews. They’re relatively easy to grow and take time to mature alongside summer-growing vegetables.
Find out how to grow parsnips with the expert advice in this guide.
Sowing parsnip seeds
Parsnips need an open sunny site, and free-draining, well-worked soil, with no stones. But they don’t like overly fertile soil, so don’t dig in extra compost or manure. Sow seeds directly into the soil from mid-spring when the soil is warmer.
Use fresh seeds as they don’t tend to keep from year to year. Be patient as parsnip seeds take their time to germinate.
Find out how to sow parsnip seeds in the ground.
Looking after parsnip plants
Parsnips have a very long growing season, which is needed so the plants can develop the large roots that we eat. However, once the plants have established, parsnips will more or less look after themselves. They don’t need extra watering, except in really dry conditions. A good watering every 2-3 weeks should be fine. And they don’t need feeding through the season either.
The roots will reach full size by the autumn, so you can start pulling up fresh parsnips as required from September onwards. Loosen the soil around the roots before lifting. Parsnips taste sweeter the longer they’re left in the ground.
Parsnips can be stored after harvesting in a cool, dry place. They can be kept for up to four months in sand. Or they can be peeled, chopped and part-cooked before freezing, ready to add to soups or stews.
Preparation and uses
Great, roasted, mashed or added to soups and stews. Take a look at these parsnips recipes suggested by our friends at Olive Magazine.
The biggest enemy of parsnips is the carrot fly. The larvae of these small, black flies feed on the developing parsnip roots. Prevention is the best method of dealing with this pest. Put up 60cm barriers around your bed of parsnips, or cover your crop with horticultural fleece. Also, avoid crushing any foliage when you’re thinning out, as the scent will attract flies.
Parsnip canker is an orangey-brown rot that appears at the top of the root. It’s caused by drought or over rich soil, so regular watering will help. To prevent this grow canker-resistant varieties, and improve soil drainage.
Discover 10 ways to avoid carrot root fly.
Try sowing parsnip seeds mixed with annual flowers, which can help to deter carrot fly.
Parsnip varieties to grow
- ‘Albion’ RHS AGM – a canker-resistant variety, producing long, smooth, white-skinned, roots with sweet flavour and good texture. The roots store well
- ‘White Gem’ – a reliable, sweet-flavoured variety with good canker resistance
- ‘Archer’ RHS AGM – good yields and flavour, this is a good canker resistant variety
‘Palace’ RHS AGM – another high yielding variety, with good canker resistance
- ‘Gladiator’ RHS AGM – good flavour and especially suited to heavy soils