Brief SummaryRead full entry
The cultivated form of Parsnip, which has a thicker and more succulent root, is grown in temperate regions all over the world. Its root is used as animal fodder or as a cooked vegetable (delicious simply broiled with a drizzle of olive oil!). Parsnip was cultivated in Roman times, but fleshy forms were not developed until the Middle Ages. The root contains around 6% starch and 6% sugar; exposure to frost supposedly increases the conversion of starch to sugar. Vitamin C content is 17 mg/100g. Parsnip has sometimes been used to make wine. (Vaughan and Geissler 1997)
The Parsnip plant has a characteristic smell; hollow, furrowed stems; and large, simple, pinnate leaves with ovate and toothed leaflets. The small yellow flowers are borne in an umbel that may be as much as 10 cm across. (Vaughan and Geissler 1997)
Parsnip contains furanocoumarins, which deter herbivores from eating its foliage. These compounds can also cause phytophotodermatitis in humans and livestock, a condition that results in patches of redness and blisters on the skin when they come into contact with the sap or ingest parts of the plant in the presence of sunlight. (Menemen et al. 2001)
Parsnip has been the subject of diverse studies investigating the chemical ecology and evolution of plant-herbivore interactions (Zanger et al. 2008 and references therein).
Averill and DiTommaso (2007) and Cain et al. (2010) reviewed the biology and ecology of this species.
Wild Parsnip is one of eight species and four subspecies in the genus Pastinaca, all of them native to Europe and Asia (Menemen et al. 2001 and references therein).