PARSNIPS: HEALTH BENEFITS OF PARSNIPS USES AND HISTORY: PARSNIP, CARROT AND POTATO MASH RECIPE
Parsnips are native to Europe and western Asia, and in Pakistan are known as wild carrots (jungli gager or safed gager) and not generally eaten as a vegetable, although they are used in medicine. The parsnip looks like a long, thick carrot with an ivory coloured skin. It has been cultivated by the Germans for more than 2000 years, along the banks of the Rhine. Pliny tells us that the Roman Emperor, Tiberius, so loved parsnips that had them transported from along the banks of the Rhine every year when they were harvested. The ancient Germans worked out how to grow parsnips with thicker roots than the wild variety. However Pliny also says that they had to be transplanted or grown from seeds but the pungent taste could not be got rid of. They were a luxury item in Rome, at least the ones cultivated along the Rhine were. The Romans used them in sweet dishes with fruit as they have a naturally sweet, nutty taste.
They were very popular in the Middle Ages as they are a winter crop and even in 1730, Tournefort wrote in his “The Compleat Herbal” that “they are not so good in any respect till they have been first nipt with Cold.” There is still a belief that parsnips are best after they have had to deal with a frost, and this is because some of the starch turns to sugar, so enhancing their sweet taste. He continued “It is likewise fairly common of late to eat them with salt-fish mixed with hard-boiled eggs and butter…and much the wholesomer if you eat it with mustard.”
Gerard writing in 1597 believed that they “nourish more than do the Turneps or the Carrots…bread made from the roots of parsnips” was good he thought.
Culpeper also seemed to think a lot of parsnips and agreed with the Romans and Greeks that they are a good diuretic. He says that the root is good for the stomach and kidneys “and provoketh urine.” He also says that the seeds were used in medicine (they contain essential oil) “much more (than the root), the wild being better than the tame.”
Parsnip seeds used to be harvested and sold by herbalists, as the oil obtained from them was supposed to be good for intermittent fevers. It was also used to get rid of gravel in the kidneys and gall bladder and in the treatment of jaundice.
In Ireland parsnips were brewed with hops and then fermented to make beer. In Britain parsnip wine was made and much enjoyed in rural communities.
The colonists took parsnips to the States in 1609, where they have not been as popular for some reason as the carrot, or as popular as they are in Europe. The parsnip has even come into the language with the old saying, “Fine words butter no parsnips.” This means that you have to act not just talk, or put your money where your mouth is – actions speak louder than words.
They were even more popular in Europe than they are now, before the arrival of the potato, but they are still a British favourite, and were a staple during the Second World War (1939-1945).
Nutritionally the parsnip is superior to the potato containing as it does vitamins C, E, K and B6. It also contains Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, along with high quantities of potassium, which is an energy booster and good for the immune system. Parsnips also contain calcium and iron, so they are good for the bones and blood, and niacin which helps the digestive system nerves and skin. Folate helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and the high fibre content means that parsnips are good for constipation. They also contain the minerals phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, zinc (good for male sexual health), traces of selenium and copper. Like turnips and swede they are very good for you.
It is said that if you dream about parsnips you will be lucky in business matters, but not in affairs of the heart.
So don’t dream about them, eat them. If you boil them you need only do this for 15 minutes, so add them to soups and stews at the end of the cooking time. They are very good cut in half or quarters and roasted with a joint of meat, chicken or turkey.
PARSNIP, CARROT AND POTATO MASH
500 gr boiled potatoes
300 gr carrots boiled or steamed
300 gr boiled parsnips
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste
Mash all the ingredients together and serve hot.
If you have some left over you can fry it in oil for breakfast next day.
This has Taste and is a Treat.