Bright green sprouts, shoots and baby greens may be the first local produce you look for in spring, but the true first harvest (after maple, of course) has been ripening and sweetening in the ground all winter. The extreme temperatures of our northern Vermont winters convert the starches in the parsnips to sugar and allow the parsnips' flavor to mellow. The result is a magically sweet, tender root. Christa from Jericho Settlers Farm says they even smell great, "after we've washed a batch and put them in the walk-in cooler the cooler smells sweet for several days."
According to Hank Bissell at Lewis Creek Farm, "back in the day, no one dug Parsnips in the fall. They were left in the ground all winter and were the first vegetable to come out of the garden in the spring...extra sweet!" However, like most rewards, over-wintering parsnips comes with a risk. Hank often has to scramble to get his harvest. "We find we have to harvest the parsnips the very first day that the ground is thawed enough, 'cause the deer will sniff out the green sprouts and eat the crowns of the roots before you can say Jack Robinson." Deer know an excellent treat when they see it.
Who's got em?
Lewis Creek Farm, Starksboro VT
Where can you buy? City Market/Onion River Coop in Burlington and Middlebury Natural Food Coop
Preparation recommendation? "Coming as they do, right at the end of sugaring season, it was common to cook them up and add a bit of fresh maple syrup. The syrup was not added to make the Parsnips sweeter, but rather out of a general enthusiasm for the two freshest products on the farm."
Jericho Settlers Farm, Jericho VT
Where can you buy? Sweet Clover Market in Essex, Richmond Market, Jericho Market, Village Market Waterbury, and Commodities Natural Market in Winooski and Stowe
Where can you find them on a menu? Guild Tavern, Hatchet Tap and Table, Kitchen Table Bistro, Hen of the Wood Waterbury, Hen of the Wood Burlington, Trapp Family Lodge, Juniper at Hotel Vermont and more! See how restaurants are making use of the sweet roots here.
Pete's Greens, Craftsbury VT
Harvest is a little later this year up in Craftsbury! Keep your eyes peeled for Pete's spring-dug parsnips on the menu and in their Waterbury store, CSAs and farmstand soon.