Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Wages of Sin

I suppose that for all the bad things I have done there is a special place in hell reserved for me where I will spend the rest of eternity weeding parsnips.

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?


The Baklava Queen said...

Ed, I'll send you a couple of parsnip recipes I like. And I'm sure there will be a spot reserved for me right next to yours, though mine's in the carrot patch... the weeds are going crazy right now!

I Heart Kale said...

Two of our favorite ways of using them this winter were in a frittata and grated raw in a salad

Lisa said...

Hmmm. Ya think it's too late to plant parsnips seeds in the DC area? I haven't gotten to it yet but pulled out the seed packet when sowing some more green bean seeds. Hope not.

Anonymous said...

Parsnips are *amazing* deep-fried as chips. They go all sweet and delicious and much more interesting than even potato chips made from real potatoes.

Julia said...

My two favorite parsnip preparations are roasted with butter, and pureed with cream and lemon juice. When I roast them, I (first peel, cut in half and then quarters depending on size) usually toss them with a little butter and/or olive, fresh thyme, salt and pepper. If I have space, I'll give carrots the same preparation with the addition of curry powder. Pureed: Cook the beejeebies out of them in boiled salted water. When they are tender, drain most of the water, puree them in a food processor with a touch of cream. Season with salt and pepper. Thomas Keller from the French Laundry serves this puree with roasted fish and a saffron-vanilla sauce (I know this sounds odd, but trust me, you will forget about your weed patch in hell because you'll be in heaven).

Ed Bruske said...

Jennifer, my carrot patch is fine, but I'm on my second round weeding the beets. It's a never-ending task if you are gardening organically.

ILK, raw in a salad? That's something I've never tried before. I grate carrots into salad all the time. Come to think of it, why not parsnips? I'll definitely give it a shot.

LS, I can definitely see deep-fried parsnips. That could be a great alternative to french fries.

Julia, I am liking the idea of pureed parsnips. Root vegetables are excellent pureed. Do you take the extra step and press the puree through a seive. Thomas Keller runs just about everything he cooks through a chinois, I think.

Julia said...

Ed, I don't press the puree through a chinois (don't tell TK how I've bastardized his recipe), but I do like a smooth puree, so I leave it in the food processor for at least a few minutes... and make sure you use plenty of liquid. No worries of making wall-paper paste with parsnips as there's no gluten.