5 Fun Facts About Parsnips

Reviewed by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD on August 15, 2014
From the WebMD Archives

1. Where They Came From

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

2. Medicinal Uses

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

3. Nutrients You Get

Half a cup of sliced, cooked parsnips has 3 grams of fiber and only 55 calories. They are a good source of vitamin C (11% of the recommended daily allowance), folate (11%), and manganese (10%).

4. Parsnip's Family

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

But it's not related to the "cow parsnip," which is a member of the parsley family.

5. Sugar in Parsnips

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

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

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

Recipe: Parsnip and Potato Gratin

Makes 6 servings


Cooking spray

2 cups (about 2 large) thinly sliced leeks

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, thinly sliced

1 pound parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

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

1/4 cup heavy cream

4 Tbsp grated Gruyere cheese

2 Tbsp dry breadcrumbs


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

2. Coat an 8- by 12-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. Arrange half the potatoes in the dish, overlapping slightly. Top with half the sauteed 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%

Show Sources

SOURCES: "Parsnip."

University of Illinois Extension: "Parsnip."

Fruits and Veggies More Matters: "Parsnips: Nutrition. Selection. Storage."

Self NutritionData: "Parsnips, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt."

Montana Plant Life: "Cow Parsnip."

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