I knew this day was coming. I planted the parsnips from seed March 7 directly in the soil in a section of a very rich bed about six feet long and four feet wide. Parsnips, like their cousin the carrots, take their sweet time germinating. As I suspected, weed seeds quickly sprouted and surrounded the parsnips. I waited until the parsnips were big enough to be easily identified before attacking the weeds. By that time the weeds were thick and tall and wanting to go to seed.
I gave the garden a good soaking yesterday and today I was up at 6 am to face the weeds in my parsnip patch. There's no other way to do it except dig in with your fingers, moving slowly, being ever so careful not to pull up a baby parsnip. Inevitably you will grab one by mistake and the best you can do is dig a new hole for the long taproot and hope it survives.
In the picture above, you can see clearly the area on the left that was weeded, and the area on the right that is yet untouched.
I work slowly around each plant, sometimes using a dinner fork to get into tight areas where small weeds maintain a tenacious grip on the soil. When the weeds are finally gone, as seen in this photo, the parsnips stand tall and lanky. With no weeds to lean on, they want to flop over. But they are still young. They will grow much larger and eventually create such a thick canopy over the soil they will provide their own mulch, holding moisture in the soil and preventing weeds from taking hold. Or such is the hope.
We love parsnips for their musky flavor and as a source of good nutrition. Seen here in a farmers market display back in January, parsnips are rich in potassium. A cup of sliced parsnips contains around 100 calories. They tend to overpower stocks and vegetable soups, but they are delicious roasted with other root vegetables or all on their own. Try adding roasted parsnips to a fall salad.
Do you have any great parsnip recipes you'd like to share?