The meandering thoughts of a modern-day hearth witch.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Allotment Tales // Parsnips

Although most of the allotment seems to be winding down now and large areas have been dug over and sprinkled with the reddish browns and oranges of the falling leaves, there is still growth and we are still harvesting.

One of the vegetables we grew from seed is just beginning to produce crops - the parsnip.

Parsnips take up quite a bit of space for a large chunk of the year, so gardeners with smaller plots may avoid them. We were lucky this year to have an abundance of space and parsnips are one of my favourite vegetables so I was really keen to have a go.

Apparently parsnips grow best in quite heavy soil - those grown in thin, stony ground will grow small,  misshapen roots. However, you shouldn't manure your soil as this can cause the parsnips to fork. 

Some varieties of parsnip seed can be sown in late winter, but ours went in in late spring. We then thinned them out once they had grown their first set of full leaves and were about 5cm tall. They need a good 20cm between plants to allow those roots to grow. 

Parsnips are ready to be harvested from autumn, when the leaves start to die back. However, many claim that their flavour is improved with some exposure to frost. You can leave parsnips over winter - come spring they will grow a new set of leaves - although they tend to be rather tough and woody by that point and would be little use for anything other than soups and parsnip wine. I'm going to be picking the majority of mine for Christmas but I will be making a batch of my favourite Parsnip and Rosemary soup in the meantime with the few we have just pulled. More on that next time.

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