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Growing Organic Parsnips

Posted February 05, 2021

Parsnips are an important winter crop as it is extremely hardy and also an excellent source of vitamins C, folic acid, potassium and fiber. It is an biennial grown as an annual for its plump, tasty root, which tastes particularly good roasted. We love to roast or cook them or cook them on a smoker with other winter vegetables such as butternut squash, carrots, potatoes and turnips.  

Parsnips can take three to fours weeks to germinate and require a fairly long growing season. Always use fresh seed, planting directly in the soil in mid-March through to Mid-May. Transplants can be used, but be particularly careful to get each little transplant straight in the ground or you will end up with a curly parsnip.

Parsnips prefer an open, sunny spot with free-draining, deeply cultivated, light, loose soil that has had plenty of organic compost incorporated. They also appreciate warm soil, so cover with cloches or fleece prior to sowing. Sow 3-4 seeds every 4” apart. Water in with diluted liquid kelp. Keep soil moist, but not saturated. Once germinated and the first rough leaves appear, thin to 4-5” apart. Parsnips do not like to be disturbed, so while thinning them out put two finger either side of the strongest seedling and snap or snip off the others, then settle the row by watering immediately afterwards. We interplant radishes or lettuce to make good use of space and help delineate the row during germination.  

During the growing season, keep parsnips watered and free from weeds. Take care not to damage the shoulders of the young parsnips. Harvest from November onwards, preferably after a frost, which gives them a fuller, sweeter flavor. You can store them in the ground until February, but they are so good that we’ve always eaten them by then. When harvesting, first loosen the soil with a fork to avoid damaging the tapered roots.

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