Great rewards for patience and care

Parsnips prosper with patience.

By Beatrice Hawkins

Parsnips are something I have never grown or even tried to grow, as I have always been told by others that they are difficult. I also suspect that the fact my family weren’t fans of either parsnip or turnip may have been an influencing factor!

Both vegetables have always been used in stews and my son has told me that, as a child, he would take a mouthful thinking he was getting a nice piece of potato only to be disappointed when it wasn’t – and in his language it was “yuk”! His sisters agree with him, but like the good kids they were, they ate it anyway and all use them in cooking today!

I am a fan of parsnip as I grew up with someone who crumbed and baked them. My family didn’t like it that way either – fussy lot!

When my parents lived in Tasmania for a while I know Dad very successfully grew good beds of parsnips. The climate and soil where they were living was very conducive to growing wonderful veggies of all varieties and it was some of the happiest years they had in their short retirement. During his working life my dad was a great believer in the directive “six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work and rest on the seventh”, and this he did which left little time for the relaxation of gardening until he retired.

Parsnips grow best in deep sandy, humus rich soil and seeds should be sown 3-4 cm apart in drills about 4 cm apart.

It is important to use fresh seed, as seed older than the previous year’s harvest will, apparently, not germinate. Keep the soil moist until they do germinate, and it may take up to a month, as if they dry out they will also fail.

They are susceptible to weed competition and snails and slugs, so do require a lot of work and attention. It may be an idea to plant a mix of parsnips and radishes as the quick-to-emerge radishes would keep the soil open and make it easy to see just where the rows are.

Parsnips are a cold weather vegetable and leaving them in the ground will give them a sweeter taste, as the starch is converted to sugar by the cold.

If you have the patience and dedication to grow these, they will reward with a harvest in 17-20 weeks. Not a crop for impatient people – maybe this is also a reason I have never grown them!

Another crop that requires patience is garlic as it can also take months to mature and be ready to use, but an advantage is that it will also keep for months.

Purple stripe and white are two varieties usually available in nurseries and greengrocers, but be careful if you buy from a greengrocer that you do not get international imports as these will have been treated prior to import and will not generally germinate. If you can get it, try ‘elephant’ (Russian) garlic as it has a milder flavour and is great for roasting.

Garlic likes a sunny, well-drained spot and does not like competition for soil so, as with most things, they like to be kept weed-free. The plants, like most growing things – animal or vegetable – like to be fed and watered while they are growing but when the tops start to fall over it’s time to stop watering and allow them to dry out for anything from two to four weeks before harvest.

The best thing about garlic other than the usefulness in the kitchen in many forms of cooking is that they are susceptible to very few pests and can be used to make a natural pesticide to spray on other plants.


Extravaganza next week

Jumpers and Jazz is underway and will provide entertainment for locals and visitors alike.

Don’t forget to include the Garden Extravaganza at St Mary’s Hall on Wood Street in your itinerary next Wednesday 25 and Thursday 267 July – and come an enjoy all that will be on offer.

Morning and afternoon Devonshire teas and barista coffee and cake will be available along with a selection of delicious home-made soups served with crusty bread for a light and enjoyable lunch.

See you there!

*This is an old article that has been digitised so our readers have access to our full catalogue.