Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pity the Poor Parsnip; It Is Not an Anemic Beet

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pity the Poor Parsnip; It Is Not an Anemic Beet

Article excerpt

PITY THE poor parsnip. I can't think of a vegetable that has been more unjustly maligned. Alexander Woollcott likened a poor theater performance to "a taste of lukewarm parsnip juice." Sir Walter Scott's observation, "Fine words butter no parsnips," became a popular adage. But the cruelest words came from rhymester Ogden Nash:

"The parsnip, children, I repeat

"Is merely an anemic beet.

"Some people say the parsnip's edible.

"Myself, I find that claim incredible."

I say it's high time to rehabilitate a vegetable that was beloved by the ancient Greeks, devoured in great quantities during the Middle Ages, and cultivated and cooked with gusto by the American colonists. But don't just trust history. Take a bite and you'll see why.

The parsnip belongs to the umbelliferae family, whose members include carrots, celery and fennel. Imagine, if you will, an albino carrot with a swelled head and you have a portrait of the parsnip. This ivory-colored taproot, wide at the top, tapering to a slender point at the bottom, has a mild earthy flavor with a remarkable natural sweetness. Indeed, parsnip syrup was once used as a sweetener in central Europe.

I note with satisfaction that the lowly parsnip has begun to turn up on the menus of trend-setting American chefs. It's about time that the earthy sweetness of this singular vegetable was appreciated by the public.

Parsnips not only taste good, they're good for you. According to nutrition writer Carol Rinzler, a 3 1/2-ounce serving of parsnips contains 13 milligrams of vitamin C - 22 percent the RDA for adults. Parsnips are also a source of fiber and calcium: Ounce for ounce, they contain 31 percent as much calcium as whole milk.

Parsnips are available year-round, but popular lore holds that they taste best harvested after the first spring thaw. (The chill of winter seems to help convert the parsnip's starches to sugars. …

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