By Susan Patterson, Master Gardener
Parsnips, brought to American by the first colonists, are a cool season root vegetable that requires at least 2 to 4 weeks of close to freezing temperatures to taste its best. Once the cold weather hits, the starch in the parsnip converts to sugar and produces an intensely uniquely sweet and nutty taste. Keep reading to learn more about how to harvest a parsnip and when to harvest parsnips for the best flavor.
Planting and Care for Good Parsnip Harvesting
Plant parsnip seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep in rows, 12 inches apart about 2 to 3 weeks before the last frost. Parsnips perform best when planted in a sunny spot in well-drained, organic rich soil.
Caring for parsnips is an important step for a good parsnip harvest. Parsnips should be kept weed free and swallowtail-butterfly caterpillars should be handpicked off. Water parsnip plants thoroughly, once a week, during periods of dry weather.
When are Parsnips Ready to Pick?
To get the most from your parsnip harvesting, it helps to know when are parsnips ready to pick. Although parsnips mature in around four months or 100 to 120 days, many gardeners leave them in the ground over winter.
Parsnip harvesting occurs when the roots reach their full size. Keep track of when you plant your seeds so you will know about when to harvest parsnips.
How to Harvest a Parsnip Root
Once your parsnips are ready, you’ll need to know how to harvest a parsnip root. Harvesting parsnip root vegetables has to be done extremely carefully, as broken or damaged roots do not store well.
Begin parsnip harvesting by trimming all of the foliage to within one inch of the roots. Carefully dig up the roots with a clean spading fork. Expect roots to be between 1 ½ and 2 inches in diameter and 8 to 12 inches long.