The popularity of parsnips
continues to decline. They occupy the ground for
a long time and when plain boiled provide a dish
which is not to everybody’s taste. Do think
twice, however, before rejecting them. They need
very little attention and you can sow a catch-crop
of radish or lettuce between the rows. The roots
can be left in the ground during the winter and
dug up as required, and there are several appetising
ways of serving them. There are not many varieties
from which to make your choice – pick a
long one if your soil is good and you want to
show off your skill, but a short variety is usually
a better choice for most gardens.
Seed is very light – sow on a still day.
Germination is slow in cold weather.
Expected germination time: 10-28 days
Approximate number per ounce: 8000
Expected yield from a 10ft row: 8lb (4kg)
Life expectancy of stored seed: 1 years.
Approximate time between sowing and lifting: 34
Ease of cultivation: Easy
· If you want to grow long and tapering
parsnips you will need a deep, friable and stone-free
soil which has been well-manured for a previous
· Any reasonable soil in sun or light shade
will grow a good crop of one of the shorter varieties.
Dig deeply in autumn or early winter and refrain
from adding any fresh manure or compost. Lime
if necessary. Break down clods and rake in Growmore
fertilizer when preparing the seedbed.
· Sow in groups of 3 seeds 6in (15cm) apart
in rows ½ in (1cm) deep and cover with
soil. The rows should be 12in (30cm) apart. Thin
the seedlings to leave one plant.
· Use fresh seed every year. February is
the traditional month for sowing parsnips, but
it is better to wait until March when the weather
will be warmer or even April if you are growing
one of the shorter-rooted varieties.
Sowing time: March; can extend from mid February
to the end of April.
Lifting time: November to February; can include
late October and early March.
Looking after the crop
· Parsnips seldom produce satisfactory
roots after transplanting, so throw thinnings
· Hoe regularly to keep down weeds. Take
care – never touch the crowns of the developing
plants. The crop requires very little attention
and it is not usually attacked by pests. The leaf-mining
celery fly is occasionally a nuisance –
squash the blisters between the fingers.
· The soil should not be allowed to dry
out, but it will be necessary to water only when
there is a prolonged dry spell.
· The roots are ready for lifting when
the foliage begins to die down in autumn. It is
claimed that the flavour is improved after the
· Lift the crop as required, using a fork
to loosen the soil. Leave the remainder in the
soil for later harvesting. It is a good idea to
lift some in November and store as for carrots.
In this way you will have a supply of parsnips
when the soil is frozen or covered with snow.
Lift and store any remaining roots at the end
Tender and True: Still the most popular long variety,
widely recommended for exhibition. There is very
little core and resistance to canker is high.
Hollow Crown Improved: Another long variety for
exhibition and kitchen use. As with all the long
ones you will need a deep, clay-free soil or you
will have to sow in specifically-prepared soil
Avonresister: One of the shortest – 5in
(12cm) cones which are resistant to canker and
capable of growing in poor soils. Sow at 3in (7cm)
intervals – not the standard 6in (15cm).
Offenham: For many years Offenham was the standard
medium-sized parsnip – broad-shouldered
and recommended for shallow soils.
White Gem: Similar to Offenham but resistant to
canker. Easy to lift, excellent flavour –
taking over from Offenham in the catalogues.
The Student: Medium-sized – thick and tapering.
The one to choose for flavour.