The parsnip looks like a pale carrot and is actually a relative of the carrot, celeriac, and parsley root. Commonly found in Europe, this root vegetable arrived to the United States with the colonists. Popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries for its celery flavor and nutty fragrance, this vegetable was often used in recipes that called for caloric decadence.
Parsnips are available year round with a peak from fall into spring. They are often displayed with the parsley root, so be sure you know which is a parsnip. Parsley roots are typically sold with their feathery greens whereas parsnips are sold by the root.
Select medium sized roots with uniform creamy beige skin. Avoid limp, pitted, or shriveled roots. Store parsnips unwashed wrapped in paper towel, placed in plastic, and store in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.
Wash, peel, and trim parsnips as you would a carrot. If steaming, then the parsnips skins will slip off after cooking. If pureeing parsnips, then leave skins intact.