I have discovered a new and unexpected food to love.  It is slender and pale, and absolutely uninspiring to look upon.  But once sauteed or roasted to golden perfection it is heavenly. My newfound vegetable love is the parsnip.

In my efforts to eat more vegetables, and eat more widely in my vegetable choices, I decided to try cooking a recipe that included this ancient and somewhat forgotten humble looking root vegetable.  I had eaten them once, hidden in some mashed potatoes that someone else had prepared.  But I had never been moved to buy them and prepare them myself.  If they tasted like mashed potatoes, I would just buy potatoes.

So I searched for parsnips at my local grocery store, and found them relegated to the highest corner of the produce aisle, at the very end of a long row of colorful and green vegetables.  I selected six long, thin specimens and put them in a bag.  They looked like bland, boring carrots, and I was not really looking forward to cooking them.

At home I peeled them, sliced them on the diagonal and sauteed them in olive oil for about 20 minutes until golden.  Now they started to look interesting.  I popped one in my mouth.  Somewhat starchy, like a potato, but tender and slightly sweet, like a plantain.  I ate several more, enjoying their delicately sweet flavor, and stopped only when I realized I would not have enough for the meal I was preparing.

Although related to carrots, parsnips are more nutritious.  They contain high amounts of potassium, manganese, folate, vitamin C, and dietary fiber.  Parsnips definitely deserve a place on the dinner plate.

Sweetest after the first frost, this is the time of year when parsnips really shine. And there is no shortage of preparation ideas.  Parsnips can be enjoyed raw or cooked. They work well in dishes with delicate flavors, as their mild flavor blends well and enhances the flavor of the dish.  They can be spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg.  Herbs, such as basil, dill, parsley, thyme, and tarragon also work well with parsnips. Shred them into salads.  Stew them in soups.  Steam, boil, puree or sautee.  Just don’t let the season end without enjoying some parsnips.

Here are some lovely parsnip recipes:

Roasted Potatoes, Parsnips and Carrots with Horseradish Sauce from Cooking Light

Spicy Parsnip Soup by Jamie Oliver

Shrimp Enchiladas with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Parsnips from Bon Appetit

Help me spread the word.  What is your favorite way to enjoy parsnips?