Both the parsnip and the parsley root are winter vegetables whose edible part develops underground. Although used for centuries in European dishes, neither of these vegetables is widely used in American cooking. And although they taste quite different from each other, they are both members of the Umbelliferae family, which also includes carrots, celery, parsley, chervil, fennel and celeriac. Parsnips and parsley root are equally good sources of fiber and vitamin C.
The humble parsnip looks similar to the carrot, except instead of being orange, it is light yellow or off-white. Parsnips have a delicate, sweet flavor and an aroma reminiscent of celery. Smooth, light and starchy in texture, they can replace potatoes at the table. Although you can enjoy parsnips year round, their optimal season is from autumn through spring. Parsnips take on sweetness by remaining in the ground, and reach maximum sweetness after a frost. When shopping for this vegetable, look for parsnips that are firm and dry. You can store them for up to three weeks in the refrigerator.
The parsley root is slightly more slender than the parsnip. Like the parsnip, the parsley root is a pale color and similar to the carrot in appearance. Steve Albert, a California nurseryman and author of the Harvest to Table website, describes parsley root's taste as a combination of "celeraic and carrot with hints of celery, turnip and parsley leaf." Parsley root is also sometimes called Hamburg parsley or Dutch parsley. The leaves of the parsley root are broader than those on regular parsley, and can be used to provide flavoring to foods.
The flavor of parsnips is so sweet that in Europe this vegetable was once used to sweeten cakes and jams. Parsnips are not usually served raw. However, a peeled, grated parsnip is mild enough to add to a salad, suggests the Vegetarians in Paradise web magazine. You can also add peeled slices of parsnips to a wide variety of soups or stews. Try boiling, stewing, sauteing or roasting parsnips on their own or with other vegetables for a healthful, tasty side dish.
Parsley Root Uses
Adding parsley root slices to stews, soups and mixed vegetables will intensify these dishes with a distinct aroma. Try adding a small amount of partially boiled parsley root to boiled potatoes, then mash together. Foods whose flavors are particularly enhanced by parsley root include cabbage, shallots, sweet potatoes, beets and other root vegetables. You can even turn parsley root into a type of seasoning by drying it on a shallow tray in an oven at low heat. After the parsley root cools, store it in a tightly covered jar in a dark place.