Sow and grow parsnips

Start them off in the ground now for tasty winter crops.

Parsnips - step 1.JPG

A very tasty and reliable winter vegetable is the parsnip. This winter root veg is hardy, meaning it can stand out in all weathers without being damaged. Roots are ready to start pulling in autumn and can continue to be lifted through until the following April. Parsnips are fairly easy to grow given the correct conditions. They prefer a good, well-drained soil as in heavy clay soils or stony soils the roots can be stunted or forked. Never manure the plot before growing parsnips as this also causes the roots to fork. It’s often thought that parsnip seed takes a long time to germinate and needs sowing early in the season. If sown too early in cold wet soils, the seed will simply sit there and rot. However, if sown at the end of March or early April as the soil is warming up, the seed will germinate and grown much faster. Exhibition growers start the seedlings off in deep containers, but for kitchen use it’s best to sow directly into the soil to prevent the tap roots being damaged as they grow. Always use a packet of new seed and choose one of the many excellent F1 hybrid varieties such as ‘Duchess’, ‘Gladiator’, ‘Excelsior’ or ‘Palace’ that have good disease resistance to canker and produce good quality and tasty roots.