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Seven Healthy Facts About Parsnips

Sweet in taste and full of vitamins, the humble parsnip is a boon in winter dishes – including our delicious parsnip and potato gratin.
By Chloe Thompson
WebMD Magazine - Feature

History of Parsnips

Parsnips are native to Europe and Asia and were introduced to North America in the 17th century.

Medicinal Uses of Parsnips

People used to believe (falsely) that eating parsnips could relieve a toothache or tired feet.

Sugar in Parsnips

The parsnip's unique flavor comes from the conversion of its starches to sugar. This happens after the first frost, when the vegetable is still in the ground.

Nutritional Content of Parsnips

Half a cup of sliced cooked parsnips has 3 grams of fiber and only 55 calories. They are a good source of vitamin C (17% of RDA), folate (11%), and manganese (11%).

Carrots and Parsnips

It's no coincidence that the parsnip resembles the carrot. The two veggies are close relatives.

Parsnips Instead of Sugar

In Europe, parsnips were used to sweeten jams and cakes before sugar was widely available.

Cow Parsnip?

Actually "cow parsnip" is a misnomer. That plant is a member of the parsley family.

Healthy Recipe: Parsnip and Potato Gratin

Makes 6 servings


cooking spray

2 cups (about 2 large) thinly sliced leeks

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, thinly sliced

1 lb parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

½ tsp nutmeg

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

1 cup, plus 2 tbsp nonfat, low-sodium chicken broth

¼  cup heavy cream

4 tbsp grated Gruyère cheese

2 tbsp dry breadcrumbs


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray and heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Sauté leeks until caramelized, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, and continue cooking 2
to 3 minutes.

2. Coat an 8x12-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. Arrange half the potatoes in the dish, overlapping slightly. Top with half the sautéed leeks, garlic, and parsnips, and season with half the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and thyme. Repeat layering, using remaining vegetables and seasonings. Pour broth over and around vegetables. Cover pan tightly with foil and bake 1 hour.

3. Increase oven temperature to 375°F. Remove foil and pour cream over vegetables. Sprinkle cheese and breadcrumbs and continue baking, uncovered, 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Per serving: 195 calories, 5 g protein, 33 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat
(3 g saturated fat), 18 mg cholesterol,
5 g fiber,
6 g sugar, 268 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 25%.

Reviewed on October 04, 2011

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