Pastinaca sativa (Parsnips/Pastinaken)
Roast parsnips are a real favourite of mine, and at Christmas in England there is never a parsnip left over after Christmas dinner. Yet here in Bavaria they are not easy to find! Surprisingly, for a region that treasures and nurtures local produce and specialities, parsnips are not on the menu. We have carrots, cabbages, kohlrabi, celeriac, mangold, etc. But no parsnips.
If I’m lucky I can find them at the market, but more often than not I can only find parsley roots. They look almost identical, and are a standard ingredient for soups and stocks here, but their flavour is completely different and nowhere near as good as the parsnip.
The parsnip is carrot family, and has a sweet aromatic flavour with a hint of woody spice… cardamom? Apparently the Romans brought them to our northern climes, where they flourished, producing much larger roots than known to them. Their Latin name was originally pastinum.
Parsley roots are very closely related to parsnips and the carrot family, and are also known as Hamburg root parsley. I have never heard of them being used in the UK, probably because the British know that parsnips taste much better! It is not the same plant as the parsley we grow for the leaves, since the roots on leaf parsley remain rather small and would make for a very meagre meal!
I do use parsley root in the absence of parsnips for adding more depth of flavour to soups… particularly carrot or pumpkin.