Wild Parsnip - Pastinaca sativa

Wild Parsnip - Pastinaca sativas

Armed, But Not That Dangerous

Look along the highways, fencerows, and along the forest edge around late June and early July and you are bound to see 4 to 5 foot stalks shooting up with yellow umbrella like flowers on them. Very few people know that this is Parsnip, the same Parsnip that we buy in the grocery store.

"Zeal without knowledge is fire without light."

Unfortunately, most of the people that believe they know what this plant is absolutely hate it. Why… because it is supposedly an invader, a noxious weed, and on top of that it’s armed and dangerous, especially against those who use string trimmers and mowers to eradicate it. The reason it is considered dangerous is that this plant contains a sap in its stem and leaves that is photoreactive. Get some on your skin, add a little bit of sun, and in a day or two you’ll probably have a rash much like poison ivy.

"Some people will never learn anything, for this reason, because they understand everything too soon."

But the Parsnip deserves to be remembered again as a wild food. It was brought here because it is an amazingly versatile culinary vegetable, stores well through the winter, and is loaded with vitamins and minerals. And now that it has escaped cultivation, there are almost limitless quantities of it all around us. Free delicious and nutritious food with no tilling, planting, cultivating, or weeding.

"I think we are living in a world of lies: lies that don't even know they are lies, because they are the children and grandchildren of lies."


Being a member of the same family as carrots, Parsnip is a biennial, growing a taproot in the first year, and shooting up its flowering stalk in the second year. It is best to harvest the first year root after the first frost because this generally helps it to sweeten up a bit, but it can be picked earlier or even later into the winter and early spring.

I’ve picked Parsnips before I knew that they could burn the skin, but thankfully it never seemed to bother me. Some say that the sap is stronger in second year plants, which if true would explain why most people don't even know about the sap, having only harvested the roots after the first year cycle. Regardless, it’s probably a good idea to wear gloves and pants when harvesting the roots.


Parsnip as most people already know go great boiled, roasted, in soups, or in a crock pot. One of our favorite ways of eating them are to make them into pancakes. (These aren’t really your breakfast pancakes, more like a fried patty cakes... or something like that)

Parsnip Pancakes

Boil about 4 or 5 Parsnips with a little salt until tender (about 15 minutes). Mash them like you would potatoes, and add in an egg, a chopped onion, and about 1/3 cup of flour. Heat some butter or oil over a skillet and fry the batter in little batches until they reach that golden brown stage of perfection on both sides.