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PASTINACA sativa

Image of Pastinaca sativa

Jessie Keith

Family

Apiaceae

Botanical Name

PASTINACA sativa

Plant Common Name

Parsnip

General Description

A versatile, underused, and often unfairly maligned root vegetable, this extremely cold-hardy biennial is native to Europe and West Asia. The long, pale yellow, typically carrot-shaped taproot matures in fall from a spring sowing, and can be harvested as long as the ground remains workable. Its starchy flesh sweetens with fall frosts. In areas with mild winters, seeds can be sown in late summer or early fall for a winter crop. Rosettes of ferny leaves are borne the first growing season, accompanied in the second year by a tall flowering stem topped with flat heads of small yellow flowers. The foliage is a favorite food of black swallowtail butterflies, which can rapidly denude the plant.

For best results, give this root vegetable deep, friable, well-drained soil and ample sun, and protect it from gophers and other herbivores if necessary (a raised bed lined with hardware cloth works well). Slow to germinate and mature, it is ideal for sowing with rapidly growing vegetables (such as radishes ) to "mark its place" and provide an early-season harvest. Gradually thin parsnip seedlings to a few inches apart. Continue harvesting as needed into winter, or dig the roots and bury them in a root cellar or other cool storage area (such as a sand-filled flat in a garage). Leave a few plants in the garden to flower and bear seed the following season. Seed is short-lived and is best sown within a year of harvest.

Use young, thinned parsnip roots and foliage in salads. Young roots also are good for roasting and stir-fries. Fresh mature parsnips are wonderful for roasting with meats or other root vegetables, slicing into stir-fries, boiling and mashing, parboiling and freezing, and many other culinary uses. Skin and core older parsnips before cooking. Second-year parsnips are woody and not good for eating.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    7 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    4 - 9

  • Sunset Zone

    A1, A2, A3, H1, H2, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Vegetable

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    6"-60" / 15.2cm - 152.4cm (10)

  • Width

    3"-6" / 7.6cm - 15.2cm

  • Bloom Time

    Summer

  • Native To

    Europe, Western Asia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Rosette/Stemless

  • Seasonal Interest

    Summer

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Yellow

  • Fruit Color

    Brown, Black

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    Yes

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    Yes

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Fine

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Edible, Herb / Vegetable

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Butterflies

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes