Parsnips Revisited

Until recently, when people asked the question, “Are there any foods you don’t like?” – my mind immediately turned to… parsnips. Why the strong aversion to this unassuming vegetable? Well, it all started in my youth…

Mom and dad traveled to Europe from time to time and Grandma Evy flew out from Fargo to stay with me and my brother. These were, for the most part, enjoyable times. Visits to Jack & The Box for the rare cheeseburger and strawberry shake. Eating salty, gelatinous Salisbury Steak TV dinners on TV trays while watching The Donnie & Marie Show. But then there was the parsnip incident.

One evening Grandma cooked and served Candied Parsnips. I honestly don’t know why this part of the meal stands out so strongly in my mind. And I can’t even remember what else she served. I just know that I hated those parsnips. Absolutely refused to eat them. “How can something be so terribly sweet yet taste like dirt at the same time?” I wondered.  This petulance did not go over well with Grandma. I’m pretty sure I ate every last one of those syrupy sticks of roots. Now there’s a slight chance that I am confusing my memory of this ill-fated dish with another traumatic part of her visit – which has also scarred me for life.

young Kathryn Gilmore

As this picture shows – I was forced against my will to relinquish my pacifier. I can tell you mom and dad were not pleased about it upon their return. But Grandma was, and still is (at 104 years old!), a very strong-willed woman. And if she thought it was time to give up my pacifier, well then so be it. So whether my aversion to parsnips truly stemmed from the dish she served or has in some freakish way been commingled with this terrorizing event – I will never know. What I do know is that it is high time to get over my judgment of these poor vegetables. It’s time to stop blacklisting parsnips.

My review of recipes found an abundance of overly sweet-sounding recipes. So rather than trying to reinvent the candied variety, I thought I’d go for a sweet-savory combo. I tried a little of this and a little of that and came up with:

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Roasted Parsnips – Two Ways

peeled parsnipsIngredients

  • 1-1/2 lb. parsnips, peeled (about 4 large parsnips)
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 generous pinches cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp. salt; more to taste
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 lemon – zest & juice
  • 1 Tbs. honey


Position an oven rack on a middle rung and heat the oven to 450°F. Cut the parsnips into thicker matchsticks about 2 inches long and a 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Place in bowl and drizzle with olive oil and toss. Pour parsnips onto two foil-lined sheets in a single layer. Sprinkle one sheet with cayenne pepper. Place both sheets in oven and roast for 15 min., stirring once or twice.

Mix lemon zest and juice with honey and set aside.

Sprinkle the sheet dusted with cayenne with the garlic, stir well. Drizzle lemon & honey mixture over the other sheet of parsnips and stir well. Continue roasting until the parsnips are well browned, about another 15 minutes. Be sure to mix after about 7 minutes – that garlic can turn quickly in such a hot oven. And the honey mixture on the other sheet can turn dark in no time. Taste for salt and serve.

roasted parsnipsI liked the contrast of the hot, garlicky parsnips against those coated with the sweet honey and lemon. Note that the honey-lemon ones may not crisp up as much as the others because they are coated in juice. But they are delicious nonetheless.

I am happy to report that I am now a parsnip convert. No longer will I shun these poor, unassuming roots. In fact, I wish I had another plateful right now…

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One Response to “Parsnips Revisited”

  1. Shalonne says:

    LOL great story! My nephew had his “binky” for way too long and I have to say I am going to side with grandma on this one. If a child can talk, no need for a pacifier. Anyway- I have never thought to try a parsnip, but I am going to add them to my farmer’s market list- honey and lemon, oh my!

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