GIY vegetable of the week: Parsnip
Why Grow it?
Earthy and homely, parsnips provide the quintessential taste of winter.
They are worth growing just for the smell you get when you pluck a parsnip from the soil on a cold winter's day.
Unlike carrots, they are relatively easy to grow, needing very little attention.
They will also stay in the ground quite happily until you're ready to eat them.
Parsnips are an excellent source of dietary fibre which helps reduce cholesterol, obesity and constipation. They also contain anti-oxidants which have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer functions.
They are a good source of vitamin C, folic acid, vitamin B-6, thiamin, and pantothenic acid as well as vitamins K and E. They also have healthy levels of iron, calcium, copper, potassium, manganese and phosphorus.
Dig the bed deeply in winter but do not manure. A week before sowing, break down clods, rake well and add an organic fertiliser.
Most parsnip seed packets will tell you to sow them in February – don't do it. Better to leave it until early May. The seeds won't germinate in cold, wet soil and later-sown parsnips are less likely to get canker.
Germination takes up to three weeks.
Make a drill 2cm deep, sow a seed every 5-7cm in rows 30cm apart and cover in with soil. When seedlings appear, remove every second one. This spacing will produce good medium sized roots.
Parsnips need very little maintenance.
Weed carefully until well established.
Watering shouldn't be necessary except in dry spells.
Parsnips are ready to rock when the foliage starts to die away in autumn but flavour improves after first frosts. Leave in soil until ready to eat but lift by February.
Lift carefully with a fork.
GIY Recommended Varieties
Canker (a fungus that produces brown or black growths on roots) is the main issue.
Avoid sowing too early and use canker resistant varieties.
* Always use fresh (this year's) seed – parsnip seeds don't store well.
* Try sowing seeds in toilet roll inserts filled with compost.
* Once seedling is established, pop the whole insert in to a hole in the ground.
Works a treat!
A GIY tutorial on growing parsnips here: www.giyireland.com/videos/detail/parsnips