Root vegetables naturally live underground for a long time. Parsnips and parsley roots are sown in the spring and grow into long tails all year round. It is harvested in late autumn and winter. Culinarily speaking, they also tend to lead rather dark lives. The cone-shaped white tubers often end up as a pale accompaniment in soup vegetable sets with carrots, sprigs of parsley and wedges of celery. In fact, neither the parsnip nor the parsley root deserved it.
Because the versatile beetroot has a fine, nutty flavor that justifies a confident appearance in the kitchen – especially in winter, when you don’t have a lot of fresh, regional vegetables. The later you harvest parsnips, the sweeter and milder the taste. Frost is good for the aroma of the roots, which is why the season here starts at the end of November. Parsnip is visually difficult to distinguish from parsley root, which is very similar to it, and belongs (like carrots) to the same plant family umbelliferae. Parsnips are only slightly larger and wider than the long, pointed root of parsley.
What is the difference between parsnip and parsley root?
But the taste and smell are different. If you hold your nose to both beets in a row for comparison, you will notice: the parsley root is spicier and sweeter, more in the direction of celery and carrots, the parsnip smells milder and nuttier. However, the aromatic roots are much more than an element of greenery: as a puree, fries, soup or roasted in the oven with parmesan cheese, parsnips have what it takes to give a heart-warming solo performance on cold winter evenings. Important rule: In principle, you can do everything with them that you can prepare with carrots and potatoes.
Unlike the exotic tubers of Jerusalem artichokes and yams, parsnips originated in central Europe thousands of years ago. The Roman historian Pliny reports that Emperor Tiberius had the “Germanic root” delivered to the imperial kitchen as tribute from the occupied territories. Charlemagne ordered his subjects to grow this medicinal vegetable by law. The tuber also played an important role in medicine, it was even said to help against snake bites. During plague epidemics in the Middle Ages, the juice of the plant was given to the sick – that’s how the root got the name “plague nacka”. With the introduction of potatoes, parsnips gradually disappeared from the dining room.
For decades loathed as food for the poor and later pushed to the sidelines in favor of pasta and fries, healthy tubers have been celebrating a culinary renaissance for some time due to the growing popularity of regional organic food. Parsnips, parsley root, turnips and black straw have been appearing on the menus of top restaurants for a long time, but not as an ecologically valuable decorative element, but as a separate component. And parsnip is excellent for everyday cooking anyway because it is easy to work with, has a long shelf life, is versatile, tolerates well and is not particularly expensive. If you don’t buy them in plastic wrap, but individually in a health food store, the CO₂ footprint is minimal.
Especially in winter, parsnip ingredients are a boon for the body. Thanks to the essential oils, the roots have a mild antibacterial effect. Their number of carbohydrates is satiating, and parsnips also contain a lot of vitamin C, iron, folic acid, magnesium, potassium, calcium and phosphorus. It is not for nothing that parsnips are also used as baby food, mixed with bananas, peas or carrots. Roots have never been proven to help against epidemics and pandemics, as was believed in the Middle Ages, but homemade parsnip potato soup certainly works against listlessness and bad mood. Competition between potatoes and parsnips is long gone, especially since these two types of vegetables complement each other perfectly in taste.
For the parsnip and potato root vegetable soup, peel and dice a large onion. Peel 600 g of parsnips and 300 g of potatoes (flour) and cut into cubes. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a large pot, sauté the onion until translucent, add the parsnips and potatoes and sauté for a few minutes. Pour in 1.5 l of vegetable stock. Cook for about 30-40 minutes until soft. Blend with a stick blender; if you like it even finer, strain the soup through a sieve. At the end, stir in a cup of sour cream (vegan alternative: soy or oat cream), salt, pepper and season with nutmeg. It goes well with crispy parma ham (or beet chips) and a slice of homemade bread. A few drops of truffle oil or, as a luxury option, freshly grated truffle slices round out the earthy flavor of root vegetables and potatoes.