Friday, March 18, 2011

Parnips in the Springtime

As some of you may remember, I miss-timed the digging of my parsnips last fall. I left them in too long and the ground froze. I had heard that parsnips taste better after a winter of cold, and that most will survive without any coddling. So, I left them, and vowed to dig them up this spring and call it an experiment.

True to my word, I was out there a couple of weeks ago during a brief thaw. It didn't quite take a pickax to dig them up, but the ground was pretty icy. I dug up about half the row.

Wow. These things are huge! I broke the first couple because I'd underestimated their size. These parsnips are 14-16 inches long and a couple of them were 2 or 3 inches in diameter at their tops.

After digging and cleaning, my new worry was that they were so big and they might be tough. Well, I chopped up a couple into a soup, and that turned out really great. I chopped some into a stir fry and that was great too! A beef stew last week had some in it, also tasty. I'll go ahead and say it, SUCCESS!

This is one of those practices that traditionally supplements the cold storage of veggies. Ground storage of really hardy roots, through the winter with the intention of digging them up during the lean time of early spring. Different veggies will handle this with varying amounts of grace. Parsnips, celeriac and carrots are some of the veggies most often stored this way, but gardeners in slightly warmer climes than my zone 4, could get away with others, especially with a little bit of season extending, (think covers or mulch.) Cold hardy choices for this technique include most of the root veggies, parsnips, carrots, celeriac, beets and turnips, as well as leeks. Less hardy, but still doable, try radishes, cabbages and kale.

For those that care about such things, these were "All American" parsnips, direct seeded in early spring 2010. None were really ready for harvest in the fall. It's possible some were ready for harvest in early winter. They overwintered with absolutely no mulch or covering or anything, and came out in February tasting good. I'll harvest the last of them this month I think. (I only planted a 4 foot row of them.)

Blogger update: Sorry for the blog silence the past couple of weeks. The family flu had me down for a week, and put me way behind at work and at home. Things are finally calming down. Expect a small flurry of posts as I purge the backlog of Jennie-thoughts. :-)


Brian Johnson said...

I had good luck with my leeks. I put my plastic row cover over the bed and they came out fine. I even managed to chip a few out for soup in December. I also had a few lettuces make it through. I dug my beds today so I transplanted them to a pot- looking forward to super early greens.

Jennie said...

Yea, the super early stuff is always exciting. Even if it's just lettuce or parsnips, the fact that it's fresh out of the garden in March makes it more exciting than that same veggie in July. :-D

I've heard good things about over wintering leeks, I've not yet grown them though. We currently only eat 5 or 6 leeks a year, I'll buy some from the farmers market when they look good, we'll have potato/leek soup, and that's it for the year. :-D

You'll have to send me some of your leek recipes. So I can expand my repertoire.

risa said...

We have had success with parsnips a few times, but have an awful time getting them started...

Jennie said...

Risa, sadly I have no words of wisdom on that front. We are lucky in Iowa to have great soil. I literally tilled up some sod, hoed out the worst of the clumps, marked a straight line and sprinkled parsnip seeds down that line. :-D

Maybe your variety isn't quite right for your garden? I have a couple of varieties in my seed box, if you want to try something new, I'd gladly send you some seed of what I have. :-)

Brian Johnson said...

Potato and leek soup is always a win, but leeks are also great braised in stock or wine as a side dish. I also just use them as an onion substitute.