Part of the same family as carrots and parsley, parsnips are traditionally dug up after the first frosts have set in. Young, smaller parsnips have a distinctive sweet flavour, while large ones can sometimes be fibrous and woody. Look for firm-textured parsnips with an unblemished skin. They'll keep in a cool dark place for 4-5 days.
Long associated as a comfort food, parsnips have only recently overcome their downmarket association. What it lacks on the glamour stakes, it does make up for with taste. Contemporary chefs have put parsnips back on restaurant menus with new-wave dishes such as parsnip ice cream.
IN THE KITCHEN
Best enjoyed in the depths of winter, the natural sweetness of parsnips takes on a deliciously nutty flavour when slow-roasted. They also ring the changes when fried as chips.
Roasted wedges go down a treat with roast beef and turkey. When combined with mashed potatoes, pureed parsnips make a rich and flavoursome accompaniment to stews and casseroles and work particularly well with white fish.
Use parsnips in cream soups and casseroles. Ring the changes, and add spices such as ginger, nutmeg and curry powder.
Parsnip wine used to be a popular local brew and is still occasionally made.