Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Time to get serious about parsnips

Parsnips are a respected (and apparently delicious) root vegetable that stores well in root cellars. I think I bought some at the grocery once, and thought they were OK.This image was on a gardening website called Galen's Garden (actually mentioned as food for rabbits and guinea pigs, but it's an appealing photo- looks tasty to me.)

A good friend who grew up on an Iowa farm told me they always had parsnips and salsify in their vegetable garden. A fellow garden blogger in England is delighted that he may have perfect parsnips for Christmas dinner (what a wonderful thing to anticipate!) A garden writer in New Hampshire talked about his method for growing parsnips -- a crowbar plunged into the soil to create a deep (very deep) cone that's then filled with light, fluffy soil for the parsnips to develop properly. Thomas Jefferson grew them (recommendation enough for me). A historically accurate garden in Old Salem, NC had parsnips and salsify, too. William Woys Weaver in his book about Heirloom Vegetable Gardening talks about the popularity of parsnips in America in the 19th century.

In any case, my previous attempt (last year) sowing parsnips produced seedlings but not much else. But fall sowing is the time to do it here in our mild winter climate, so I've got some time. Planting in fall for a spring harvest apparently is the strategy for warmer areas like ours.

But, parsnips need 18 to 24 " of good, loose soil (!) - quite a challenge here in the Piedmont of South Carolina. Clearly they'll need a special, double-dug bed (hrmph). But gardening is good exercise, after all, and why not create a small parsnip bed with lots of extra added compost?

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