Ground breaking parsnips

Parsnips are not usually thought of as ground breaking vegetables in any sense of the word; but these may be.

DSCN6795 where grown

I scattered a few parsnip seeds, with flowers and herbs in a bed (above) and this monster (below) is one of the products of that scattering.

DSCN6792 parsnip

The soil it was growing in is very hard clay with stones in.  It is difficult to get a trowel or fork into (I have not tried with a spade).  But this lovely parsnip has forged a path deep into the soil and it was relatively easy to gently lever it out with a garden fork.  The old adage is that potatoes are good to break up ground and I would definitely add both carrots (from past experience) and parsnips to this list.

I trimmed the leaves and cut off the top couple of centimetres.  This part was replanted and mulched with the leaves.  I will wait to see if it will continue to grow and hopefully flower next year to give me seed for the year afterwards.

DSCN6796 top cut off


DSCN6798 replanted


DSCN6799 mulched with leaves

Together with courgettes and wild kale leaves from our garden and beetroot and apple from the neighbours it will form part of tonight’s meal – wild salmon (not caught by us), roasted vegetables and greens.


About Anni Kelsey

I love forest gardens and forest gardening, nature, reading and everything good about being alive. I have written two books - the garden of equal delights (2020) - about the principles and practice of forest gardening; and Edible Perennial Gardening (2014) - about growing perennial vegetables in polycultures, which is basically forest gardening concentrating on the lower layers.
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6 Responses to Ground breaking parsnips

  1. mortaltree says:

    You have me on the edge of my seat wondering if that parsnip will make it through the winter. To be truthful, I can hardly fathom how it could make it with all that nutrient store removed, but then, you have been successful with the scorzonera in about the same situation. Keep me posted.


    • Anni Kelsey says:

      I may live to regret putting this but I am really confident that it will come through despite a more limited nutrient store. As you say I have been doing it with scorzonera for years and also with carrots – last year I put back the tops of lots of carrots harvested for the table. I left them to flower for the benefit of the insects.


  2. I think the point about potatoes breaking up the soil is that you dig it over twice (once to plant them and once to dig them up) 🙂

    My parsnips (also on clay) behave differently, they’re 3 inches long and 5 inches wide at the top, flat as a pancake – still excellent flavour though.


  3. Andy says:

    There is nothing better than roast parsnips! My favourite.

    They are supposed to be slow to germinate and thought by many to be a difficult vegetable to grow….or so I have read. I always just scatter the seeds and have never failed to get a good crop and they appear to grow in any soil, with any other crop. I grow mine in clay.

    We have been picking ours for the last 2 months and expect to be picking for another 2 months. When in clay they appear to be happy growing to a good size even when close together.

    I’m not too sure how well they break up the soil….I’ve never thought potatoes help break up the soil either 🙂 but then again I look forward to a good dig. The fact that it can grow in good old thick clay and grow to a good size then it must be helping to break the soil a bit, if for no other reason then it leaves a hole when pulled up. With clay I find that over time it settles back to being just as hard and thick as it ever was, after veg has been grown like parsnips. I think the trick if you don’t want to dig is to fill up the hole left by the parsnip with some organic matter.

    Nice to see you have found this excellent vegetable, and it will be interesting to see if you get flowers. I have never got them to flower yet but that might be because I can’t resit eating them 🙂


    • Anni Kelsey says:

      Hi Andy
      I have been trying to grow parsnips for years but have had a lot of trouble getting them to germinate before. That is one reason I want to get one (or more) flowering next year so I have lots and lots of seeds for the following year and more chance of getting a decent amount.
      If this first one is anything to go by I will be enjoying the others, though they be but few, because it tasted lovely!
      I think these parsnips (and the other plants in this garden generally) are breaking up the soil just by dint of being there. It is extraordinarily hard stuff and where I have grown anything for example carrots last year the soil has noticeably softened and has (a bit) more structure. There’s a long way to go yet though!


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