Parsnips: what an under-rated and neglected vegetable! Parsnips have to be one of the easiest things to grow in the cooler parts of Europe, Asia and North America.
They have a long, slow growing season from about March to December. Apart form keeping them reasonably weed free and defending them from rabbits, there is almost nothing to do after they first go in.
So, for a great addition to your organic vegetable plot, give them a try if you haven't already discovered their benefits.
Here's how to grow parsnips.
The planting method I prefer – because it’s easy! – is the starter plug method. The advantage is there’s no thinning to be done.
Start them off in February or March, (northern hemisphere).
When the parsnip seedlings look strong, about an inch high, you can plant them out in the ground. Don't plant them on freshly manured soil. They do far better on soil which was manured for a previous crop.
Make sure that the ground is not too cold or saturated. Parsnips are quite tolerant but general planting out rules still apply. Choose a mild day in March or April.
You can harden them off first by leaving them outside for some hours each day for a week or so. This will make them more used to colder conditions.
Prepare the ground in the usual way, hoeing out any weeds that have sprouted since it was first prepared. It is important that the ground is well cultivated as the roots tend to fork if the conditions are too stony and tough.
Here's how to plant them out:
The lines you drew in the soil to start give a slight valley for water to run into if you should need to water your crop again.
Now all you need to do is keep an eye on them, tidy around with a hoe from time to time and wait…
Planting parsnips in cells can lead to roots becoming entwined - especially if the ground is also a bit hard and stony. This is the main disadvantage to planting them first in cells.
You can plant them straight into the earth in a line - or even broadcast them to occupy a wider area. It is important to do your preparation. The soil should be well tilled and not compacted or water-logged.
Just create a nice, clear seed bed and sow the seeds thinly in lines. The dip should be around 1/2 an inch deep. Leave two or three inches between each seed. Sow your seeds on a day when the soil is moist and starting to warm up in springtime. Firm back the soil and water if needed.
When the seedlings are an inch or two high, thin them out carefully to reduce crowding. They will need to be from 4 - 6 inches apart as they mature in order to find enough room. You can use later thinnings as small tender vegetables.
Parsnips make great soup. They are also excellent roasted - just put them in with the spuds. Alternatively, par-boil them first for the best results. They can also be used in stews and baked dishes.
Please see The Vegetable Soup Recipe Page for a parsnip and lemon soup recipe which works well.
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