Home grown parsnips and soup

We built a small vegetable patch in the garden this spring, but hadn’t expected to gain much produce in the first year. It rained so much, we started later than planned, so seed sowing was somewhat delayed. Plus we didn’t know what would be a success, and what would not.

Gardening organically is always a challenge but pests haven’t been too difficult to manage, apart from the slugs and snails. They munched their way through all my courgette, pumpkin and broccoli like there’s no tomorrow and so we didn’t actually get any success with these. Others, though, have been great – my french beans in the summer were outstanding, the leeks full flavoured and the chard fabulously rich, despite an initial slug onslaught.

But one crop is proving to be a real success – parsnips. Supposedly quite difficult to cultivate at times, the seeds were planted when the ground was warming up, and have grown beyond expectations. Traditionally, you’re supposed to harvest parsnips after the first frost, as the cold changes the carbohydrate content, making them sweeter and more flavoursome. Having been up at stupid-o’clock on Thursday morning and experienced freezing temperatures, I decided it was time to harvest a few parsnips to sample the fruits (or veg!) of my labour.

There is something truly wonderful about eating food that you have grown yourself; not only do you know exactly where they’ve been grown and what chemicals may or may not be on them, but the effort you put in to them seems to increase the eating experience – they have an enhanced value when they’re your own. And the flavour is always great, as fresh as you can get.

And these parsnips did not disappoint – deeply flavoured, sweet and full of goodness. As soon as my daughter saw the bunch, she delightedly asked if I was making parsnip soup, which of course I was. Funny what gets my kids excited!

Nutritionally, some may view parsnips as being to high in carbohydrate, especially sugars. The sugar content is higher than other veg, that’s true, but it’s complex sugars combined with lots of fibre so that’s actually the good stuff. Plus they’re packed full of phytonutrients and antioxidants that actually help protect your body against nasty free radicals. They also have great amounts of potassium, calcium, manganese as well as B vitamins and vitamin E. So not only do they taste good, they good for your body too.

Parsnip soup has to be one the the quickest and easiest soups to make, great if you want a speedy lunch. Why not give it a go – delightfully creamy, deeply flavoured and deliciously dairy free!

Spicy parsnip soup
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium sized leek, chopped
550g (or so) parsnips
1 tablespoon curry powder
up to 1 litre vegetable stock
salt and pepper
Wash the parsnips and peel if you have to (sometimes its difficult to get all the mud off, plus if they’re not organic you want to try and get rid of some of the chemical residue). Gently heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the leek and parsnip until they start to soften. Add the curry powder and coat well, then pour in the vegetable stock until the veg are just covered – don’t use it all for now, you can always add more later, that way you get to control thickness and consistency. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat, pop on the lid and simmer for about 10 minutes until the parsnips are soft. Season and taste, then blitz, adding more stock if you need to thin the soup a bit. Serve with coriander or a swirl of dairy free yoghurt and enjoy – it’s makes wet autumn days worth having!

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