In this time of cozy soup recipes and large sheet-trays of roasted cold-weather veggies, it can be easy to overlook parsnips. Though the carrot-adjacent root veggie is beloved across Europe, it's still a rarer sight on American menus—though they're gaining traction thanks to their wintery, nutty flavor and ability to stand up to richer meat dishes. "They’re a great complement to pork or lamb and make for an interesting side dish to add some variety to your meals," says Moser. "They also make a fantastic soup." She likes them blended into potato leek or chicken soup, but she'll also toss them with other root veggies and potatoes and roast them for parsnip fries.
When shopping for parsnips, choose ones with bright skin that feels firm to the touch and has no bruises or cracks. If they feel spongy or slimy, toss them; those types of parsnips have lost too much moisture. (You can rehydrate limp ones by submerging them in a bowl of water.)
Look for smaller parsnips—which have more concentrated flavor, and a more tender texture—if you want to eat them raw or cook them quickly. Mature parsnips are more woody and tough, though they'll soften when cooked. (Note that larger parsnips have a hard, woody core that needs to be removed, according to the Kitchn). For a more earthy and sweeter flavor, look for older parsnips with brownish or black peels—the color indicates they've reached peak sweetness. They'll have a stronger, more nutty flavor and can even taste a little peppery or licorice-y, notes Fine Cooking.