Family: Apiaceae

Species: Pastinaca sativa


Conditions:  Deeply worked soil, soil temperature above 55°F (13°C).  Do not apply fresh manure or poorly aged compost.  Sunny spot preferable, although they tolerate partial shade.

Calendar for Hardiness 6B

March – April 

Cooking: Overwintered roots.  Roast to enhance natural sweetness.  If there is a large crop, they may be peeled, cut up and blanched in boiling water before freezing.


Harvesting: Overwintered roots must be harvested before they actively grow new tops.  When harvesting, do not pull the tops, but dig around them to loosen the soil, then remove by holding and twisting the root while picking up.  Tops are toxic and inedible, and may cause skin irritation and even a more severe reaction, known as phyto-photodermatitis.  Wear gloves and long sleeves when handling parsnip tops.

Start: Start seed directly outdoors, placing two or three seeds per spot, one foot apart.  To improve germination, seeds might be prepped in a sprouter or in a plastic bag between two moist paper towels for a couple of days.  Seeds only last one season.  Bury seeds 1/2″ (12.5 mm) deep, and water.

Care:  Keep well watered.

Overwintered plants: If left to grow, plants in their second year will bolt, and the roots will become tough and inedible, but might produce seed.

May – October

Cooking:  From frozen.  No cooking fresh until the fall or next spring.


Harvest:  Pick when the weather has turned cool, or wait even longer until the roots have been frost kissed.   Follow directions above.

Saving seed: For open pollinated varieties, after the bolted second year plants have produced pretty yellow flowers, brown flat discs may be saved for seed.

Care:  Continue caring for plants in the ground; although watering may be reduced, do not let dry out.


Cooking:  Prepare as above, or they may be boiled and pureed, grilled, or steamed.  Stews and casseroles acquire a rich flavour with the addition of parsnip.

Gardening:  Harvest fall crop and compost tops, or dispose as yard waste.  For overwintering, let tops wilt on their own, then cover with much.

December – Early March

Cooking:  From frozen, or dug from garden if soil is not frozen.  Cook as above.

Gardening:  Harvest from garden if soil is not hard.

tools and harvest parsnip logoVariety Suggestions:

Lancer – Open pollinated – 2016