About All American Parsnip: A close relative of parsley root and carrots, the parsnip most likely originated in Europe, where it grew wild for centuries. The ruling class claimed this vegetable for their own, prizing it for its natural sweetness; desserts often featured the parsnip, and at one time it provided a source of sugar. Americans first experienced the parsnip in the 16th century, but it has remained primarily a European favorite.
All American Parsnip Germination: Two or three weeks before the last frost of spring, soak the parsnip seeds overnight and then direct sow them 1/2" deep and 4" apart in rows 18" apart. The earth should be deeply worked with good drainage. Germination for parsnips can be very slow and irregular, so don't expect sprouting for at least three weeks. Keep the surface of the soil moist and soft, since the seedlings cannot break through a crust.
Growing All American Parsnip Seeds: Apply a layer of mulch to conserve moisture and control weeds. Parsnips can handle some dryness, but should be watered in dry weather.
Harvesting All American Parsnip: Because parsnips dramatically improve in flavor after a hard frost, the goal is to begin harvesting them after this occurs. Cover the plants with mulch over winter, and harvest them as needed all winter and into the spring. Keep in mind that the early growth of the tops in the spring will spoil the flavor, so they should be harvested before then.
Saving All American Parsnip Seeds: Parsnips must overwinter before producing seed. Because they survive cold very well, a layer of mulch should protect them in all but the coldest climates, where they should be dug and kept at 32-40 degrees and 90 percent humidity until spring replanting. Take care with the stems and leaves, since they have been known to cause serious rashes and skin irritation. Keep a close eye on the seed heads, picking them individually since they shatter soon after turning brown; parsnip seed can fly away easily since it is very small and light. Spread the heads out to dry in a protected location for a week or until they have completely dried, then thresh out the seed. Store in a cool, dry place for no more than a year for best germination.
Detailed All American Parsnip Info: Pastinaca sativa. Biennial. 105 days. 7,500 seeds per oz. 12-24" height. 2-4" spacing. Produces white parsnips 10-12" long.