2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Food and agriculture; Plants

A selection of parsnips
A selection of parsnips
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Apiales
Family: Apiaceae
Genus: Pastinaca
Species: P. sativa
Binomial name
Pastinaca sativa

The parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) is a root vegetable related to the carrot. Parsnips resemble carrots, but are paler and have a stronger flavor. Like carrots, parsnips are native to Eurasia and have been eaten there since ancient times. Until the potato arrived from the New World, its place in dishes was occupied by the parsnip. Parsnips can be boiled, roasted or used in stews, soups and casseroles.


Parsnips are not grown in warm climates, since frost is necessary to develop their flavor. The parsnip is a favorite with gardeners in areas with short growing seasons. Sandy, loamy soil is preferred; silty, clay, and rocky soils are unsuitable as they produce short forked roots.

Seeds can be planted in early spring, as soon as the ground can be worked. Harvesting can begin in late fall, after the first frost, and continue through winter, until the ground freezes over.

More than almost any other vegetable seed, parsnip seed significantly deteriorates in viability if stored for long, so it is advisable to use fresh seed each year.

In Roman times parsnips were believed to be an aphrodisiac.

In the United States, most states have wild parsnip on their list of noxious weeds or invasive species.

Parsnip is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Common Swift, Garden Dart and Ghost Moth.

Nutritional properties

The parsnip is richer in many vitamins and minerals than its close relative the carrot. It is particularly rich in potassium with 600 mg per 100 g. Parsnip is also a good source of dietary fibre. 100 g of parsnip contains 55 Calories (230 kJ) energy.

Some people can get an allergic reaction from parsnip, and parsnip leaves may irritate the skin.


When picking wild vegetables, it is easy to mistake poison hemlock ( Conium maculatum) for parsnip, with deadly results.

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