Have you ever wondered, “Are parsnips and turnips the same?” Although they’re both nutritious and delicious root veggies, that’s about where the similarities end. Don’t worry, though; you’re not the only one who’s had the parsnip vs turnip debate in the produce section of the grocery store.
The most noticeable difference between turnip and parsnip is their individual flavor profiles. Parsnips have a sweetly nutty aroma, while turnips taste more earthy and sometimes slightly bitter. Turnip greens are also edible and eaten cooked or raw.
Turnips and parsnips might look similar at first glance since they’re both white-ish root vegetables. Still, upon closer inspection, you’ll notice a few key distinctions in their color, shape, and texture.
These veggies sometimes get confused with other white root vegetables like daikon radish, kohlrabi, and rutabaga. Read on to find out how to tell turnips and parsnips apart at the grocery store and in the garden.
- Are Parsnips and Turnips the Same?
Are Parsnips and Turnips the Same?
If you aren’t an experienced chef or gardener, learning to tell some of the more uncommon root vegetables like parsnips and turnips apart might seem challenging at first. However, there are a few easy ways to identify each one.
Root vegetables are incredibly healthy because they come packed full of essential vitamins and minerals. Moreover, they’re usually low in calories, cholesterol, and fat. Although certain starchy root veggies are somewhat high in carbs, parsnips and turnips don’t contain too many carbohydrates.
Although how deep to plant turnip seeds is about the same as parsnips, in general, parsnips are sweeter than turnips. Although they usually get cooked, parsnips are also quite tasty eaten raw. They’re great for boiling, mashing, roasting, and making soups and stews.
Turnips are milder than radishes when served raw. They develop a mildly sweet, nutty flavor once cooked. Baby turnips are best for eating fresh, as older turnips are often somewhat tough and starchy.
How to Tell Parsnips and Turnips Apart
If you know what to look for, differentiating between turnips and parsnips isn’t too tricky. Their primary distinguishing features include color, shape, size, and texture.
Turnips are usually globe-shaped with a short tapered end on the bottom. Some varieties are pure white, and others have a purple top where the shoulders of the taproot protrude above the soil level.
For the most part, turnips have a firm, smooth outer skin. Their inner flesh is creamy white with a crispy, crunchy consistency. A turnip’s size depends on the variety and harvest time. Baby turnips, which are the mildest and most tender, are usually under two inches in diameter.
Turnip planting time and parsnip planting time are the same. Mature turnips are harvested when they’re between three and five inches wide. A turnip is slightly larger than a radish but smaller than a rutabaga.
Parsnips are elongated taproots similar to carrots. They have white or pale yellow flesh and skin. The surface of a parsnip is relatively bumpy, with lateral lines going across the root.
Parsnips generally grow between five and ten inches long. Choose parsnips that feel firm and don’t have any cracks or soft, discolored spots.
Taste Difference between Turnip and Parsnip
Parsnips tend to be much sweeter than turnips. They have a complex, earthy aroma with a similar sweetness level to sweet potatoes. Raw parsnips are delightfully toothsome and crunchy and a little bit more fibrous than a carrot. They get even sweeter when cooked.
When eaten raw, turnips have a mildly spicy taste and develop a more nutty, earthy flavor once cooked. Turnips become more bitter the longer they remain in the ground, so many prefer a smaller turnip size for a milder, sweeter essence.
For a low-carb alternative for mashed potatoes, try this tasty recipe for puréed parsnips. It has a richly nutty flavor and an amazingly light, fluffy texture.
First, preheat your conventional oven or a toaster oven to 400℉. Cut the top off of a head of garlic and peel away any loose, papery skin. Rub the cut end with olive oil and cover it with aluminum foil.
Roast for 30-40 minutes or until the garlic is soft and lightly browned. Peel the garlic cloves once they’re cool enough to handle.
Boil the parsnips and cauliflower in a large pot of salted water for about ten minutes or until fork-tender. Transfer them to your blender along with the roasted garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste and purée until smooth, adding water if necessary.
Transfer your purée to a serving bowl and mix in the herbs. Garnish with olive oil and freshly ground salt and pepper before serving.
Cooking with Parsnip vs Turnip
In the kitchen, there are numerous delectable uses for turnips and parsnips. Enjoy them baked, boiled, mashed, pickled, roasted, or eaten fresh. Both types of root vegetables usually get peeled before eating. Sometimes baby turnips with thin skin don’t require peeling.
The sweet flavor of parsnips pairs well with warm spices, including cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Their crispy texture matches fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots, pears, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams.
Try cooking parsnips with chicken or pork seasoned with herbs like parsley, sage, and thyme for something savory. Parsnips also get incorporated in baked goods, similar to shredded zucchini. They add sweetness to the recipe while providing extra moisture.
Turnips have an earthiness that’s sometimes a little bit spicy. They combine nicely with fragrant spices like coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, mustard, and paprika.
An incredibly versatile vegetable, turnips are an excellent match for most meats. Herbs like chives, fennel, sage, tarragon, and thyme bring out the turnips’ savory notes.
Can You Substitute Parsnips for Turnips?
In most cases, substituting one type of root vegetable for another works well. Of course, the result has a slightly different flavor and texture depending on what you use.
For the closest taste and texture, the best substitutes for turnips are celeriac (celery root), kohlrabi, and rutabaga. Radish also works well as a turnip substitute, but the flavor is much more potent.
Swap parsnips for carrots, parsley root, potatoes, salsify, or sweet potatoes for a comparable outcome. It’s also possible to use baby turnips instead of parsnips.
For the ultimate veggie side dish, try this phenomenal recipe for root vegetable gratin. Get creative and add other types of root veggies, if desired.
Preheat your conventional oven to 400℉. Grease a large-sized baking dish with butter or cooking spray. Melt two tablespoons of butter in a medium-sized skillet and add the breadcrumbs.
Cook for five minutes or until they’re golden brown, stirring frequently. Transfer the breadcrumbs to a small bowl and mix them with a half-cup of grated Parmesan cheese and the fresh thyme leaves. Salt and pepper the breadcrumb mixture to taste and set aside.
Combine the remaining butter, chicken broth, heavy cream, and thyme sprigs in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add salt and pepper, then remove the pan from the heat. Let it stand for ten minutes. Discard the thyme sprigs and keep the liquid covered and warm.
Peel and thinly slice all the vegetables and place them in a large mixing bowl. If desired, add a little more salt and pepper and toss to mix. Arrange one-third of the veggies in the baking dish and top with a half-cup of Parmesan cheese. Add another layer of veggies and Parmesan cheese, and finish with a layer of veggies on top.
Evenly distribute the garlic slices throughout the dish. Pour the cream and broth mixture over the vegetables and cover the dish with a lid or piece of parchment paper.
Bake for one hour or until the vegetables are tender and the cream sauce has thickened. Uncover and top with the breadcrumb mixture. Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes. Let stand for around ten minutes before serving.
Botanical Difference between Turnip and Parsnip
Despite being somewhat similar in appearance and taste, parsnips and turnips aren’t related, and the two plants have distinctive growing requirements.
Parsnips belong to the Umbelliferae plant family along with carrots, celery, coriander, dill, fennel, and parsley. They’re primarily a fall crop, and take between 105-130 days from planting seeds to harvest.
Turnips are in the Brassica plant family and are closely related to broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, rutabaga, and radish. Turnips are cool-weather veggies that grow best in the spring and fall. They’re fast growers and are ready to harvest approximately 40-50 days after sowing seeds.
Best Storage Methods for Turnips and Parsnips
Turnips and parsnips have a similar shelf life and their means of storage are the same. In a basement or root cellar that stays between 32-40℉, root veggies like turnips and parsnips usually keep for up to six months. For the best results, remove their leaves and stems before putting them away.
Parsnips and turnips stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to two or three weeks when kept inside a perforated plastic bag. When storing produce that’s already sliced, always use an airtight container or wrap the pieces in reusable waxed food wrap, plastic film, or aluminum foil.
Avoid storing your root vegetables next to apples, avocados, melons, peaches, or pears. These fruits emit high levels of ethylene gas, a natural substance that causes root vegetables and cole crops to turn bitter.
Freezing, canning, or pickling are all excellent techniques for extending the shelf life of your parsnips and turnips for several months. For both kinds of veggies, it’s best to blanch them in boiling water before freezing to help prevent them from losing their flavor and texture.
Health Benefits of Parsnip vs Turnip
Root vegetables like parsnips and turnips are a critical part of a healthy, balanced diet. They’re rich in essential nutrients that provide a wide variety of health benefits.
Vitamin C supports immune function, aids the absorption of iron, and helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Fiber improves digestive health and regulates blood sugar levels.
Turnips and parsnips also provide essential micronutrients like calcium, folate, magnesium, and potassium. These antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals play meaningful roles in regulating blood pressure, supporting heart, muscle, and nerve function, maintaining strong bones, and generating healthy red blood cells.
Turnip greens are an excellent source of copper, folate, manganese, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K. A few of the health benefits of adding turnip greens to your diet include healthier skin and hair, stronger bones, improved digestion, and lower risk of chronic disease.
Enjoy them fresh on salads and in sandwiches. They’re also tasty when steamed or sautéd as a healthy side dish.
Since they’re not commonplace root veggies, many people might wonder, “Are parsnips and turnips the same?” Although they seem alike at first, there are a few relevant differences.
Foremost, parsnips have a considerably sweeter flavor than turnips. They also have a more fibrous texture. Turnips grow much faster than parsnips, and gardeners often get two turnip harvests each year in the spring and fall.
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