Plan to Plant Parsnips
Probably not one of the first vegetables that come to mind when planning a vegetable garden, but it certainly is worth considering. Parsnips are an easy to grow root vegetable that grow very well in local Prince George gardens. A close relative to carrots, parsnips are white and are a good tasting vegetable, full of nutrients, including vitamin C, and E, they also are rich in antioxidants and fibre.
Perhaps the hardest part about growing parsnips is the seeding part. Sow seeds directly into the garden soil around mid May/early June. They require deep, loose soil in order for the roots to develop properly. Always use new seeds each year, as old leftover parsnip seed do not germinate well. Sow seeds 5mm-1 cm deep, spaced 5 cm apart. Germination is slow and can take anywhere from 18-28 days. It is important that soil is moist for germination so water during dry spells. Once the seeds have germinated the young seedlings can be thinned out to 7-10 cm apart. Some gardeners like to mix radish seeds with the parsnip seeds when sowing seeds. Radishes grow very quickly and will mark the rows and when harvested leave room for the parsnips to grow.
Throughout the growing season, parsnips do not require a lot of upkeep. Only water during dry spells, and keep weed-free. They can be bothered by carrot rust fly, so by placing a floating crop cover over them during the time the fly is active will help prevent it from laying its eggs.
Parsnips require a long growing season and are ready to harvest in the fall after a good frost. Frost is beneficial as it enhances the flavour of parsnips. It turns the starch into sugar, making them a sweet tasting vegetable. At one time when sugar was not readily available parsnips were used to sweeten jams and cakes.
Parsnips are very hardy and can be harvested throughout the fall. If the soil is well-drained, parsnips can remain in the garden throughout the winter, and be harvested in the spring once the soil has thawed. They are a real treat in the spring, and are very tasty, as our family can attest to, as we do this every year, in our garden at home! If you want to be able to enjoy parsnips in the winter, they can also be pulled and stored in a root cellar for a few months, the same way you would store carrots.
Whether you steam, roast, mash, bake, or fry them, parsnips are a great addition to the menu as well as your garden. This spring when looking through the seed displays, and planning the garden, don’t forget to save some room for parsnips!
Jos Van Hage owns and operates two Art Knapp Home and GardenCentres in Prince George:
- Highway 16 west at Kimball Road
- Highway 97 north at Northwood Pulpmill Road