Pastinaca sativa (*)
Pastinaca sativa L.
* USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Data from 07-Oct-06]. 27018
The parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) is a root vegetable related to the carrot. Parsnips resemble carrots, but are paler than most carrots and have a sweeter taste, especially when cooked. The buttery, slightly spicy, sweet flavor of cooked mature (often picked after the first frost) parsnips is reminiscent of butterscotch, honey, and subtle cardamom. Like carrots, parsnips are native to Eurasia and have been eaten there since ancient times. Zohary and Hopf note that the archeological evidence for the cultivation of the parsnip is “still rather limited,” and that Greek and Roman literary sources are a major source about its early use, but warn "there are some difficulties in distinguishing between parsnip and carrot (which, in Roman times, were white or purple) in classical writings since both vegetables seem to have been sometimes called pastinaca yet each vegetable appears to be well under cultivation in Roman times." As pastinache comuni the "common" pastinaca figures in the long list of comestibles enjoyed by the Milanese given by Bonvesin de la Riva in his "Marvels of Milan" (1288).
Until the potato arrived from the New World, its place in dishes was occupied by the parsnip and other root vegetables such as the turnip. While parsnips can be eaten raw, they are more commonly served cooked. Parsnips can be boiled, roasted or used in stews, soups and casseroles. In some cases, the parsnip is boiled and the solid portions are removed from the soup or stew, leaving behind a more subtle flavor than the whole root and contributing starch to thicken the dish. Roasted parsnip is considered an essential part of Christmas dinner in some parts of the English-speaking world and frequently features in the traditional Sunday Roast. Parsnips can also be fried or made into crisps.
The parsnip originated in the Mediterranean region and originally was the size of a baby carrot when fully grown. When the Roman Empire expanded north through Europe, the Romans brought the parsnip with them. They found that the parsnip grew bigger the farther north they went.
While folk etymology sometimes assumes the name is a portmanteau of parsley and turnip, it actually comes from Middle English pasnepe, alteration (influenced by nep, turnip) of Old French pasnaie (now panais) from Latin pastinum, a kind of fork, whose ending was changed to -nip by analogy with turnip because it was assumed to be a kind of turnip. It is among the closest relatives of parsley, which can be bred to develop a very parsnip-like root.
Seeds can be planted in early spring, as soon as the ground can be worked. Harvesting can begin in late fall after the first frost, and continue through winter until the ground freezes over. More than almost any other vegetable seed, parsnip seed significantly deteriorates in viability if stored for long, so it is advisable to use fresh seed each year.
In Roman times, parsnips were believed to be an aphrodisiac.
In the United States this plant was introduced by British colonists as a root vegetable. In the mid-19th century it was replaced by the potato and consequently escaped from cultivation. Today most jurisdictions have wild parsnip on their list of noxious weeds or invasive species, especially since the upper part contains a chemical which causes severe skin burns in the presence of sunlight.. The root of the wild parsnip is edible.
Parsnip is used as a food plant by the larvae of some lepidoptera species, including its namesake, the parsnip swallowtail and also the common swift, garden dart, and ghost moth.
The parsnip is richer in vitamins and minerals than its close relative, the carrot. It is particularly rich in potassium with 600 mg per 100 g. The parsnip is also a good source of dietary fiber. 100 g of parsnip contains 55 Calories (230 kJ) of energy.
1. ^ "Pastinaca sativa information from NPGS/GRIN". www.ars-grin.gov. http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?27018. Retrieved 2008-03-02.
* Dr D.G. Hessayon (2003) The Vegetable & Herb Expert. Expert Books. ISBN 0-903505-46-0
Source: Wikipedia, Wikispecies: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License