Parsnip and parsley root

Parsnip and parsley root

Parsnip and parsley root are root vegetables and biennial plants, meaning they complete their lifecycle in two years. The first year they grow leaves, stem and root. Second year they bolt, flowers and dies. Parsnip and parsley root are usually havested in their first year. Both plants become sweeter in flavour when exposed to winter frost but don’t wait to long, otherwise they are stuck in the ground until next spring, depending on your climate.

Parsnip and parsley root
From the left, parsnip and parsley root.

Both vegetables are widely used in central and eastern Europe and commonly used in soups and stews but their sweet flavour and texture make them perfect for purees, mash and as oven roasted vegetables.

Parsnip and parsley root are related to carrot, fennel, chervil, celery, celeriac and parsley and the roots are shaped like carrots, although bigger.

The colour of the root in both parsnip and parsley root is white, off-white or light yellow. Parsnip is usually bigger than parsley root.

The leaves of parsley root
The foliage of parsley root is quite similar to flat-leaved parsley.

When grown in the garden, it’s quite easy to tell the difference between parsnip and parsley root. Parsley root has got the most fantastic smell of parsley. Touch the leaves and you will smell a scent almost stronger than parsley. The leaves even look like flat-leaved parsley. Unfortunately they don’t taste the way they smell, and you will be greatly disappointed if you use them as a replacement for parsley.

Parsnip has got much coarser leaves, almost like celeriac, and looks nothing like parsley root.

The leaves of parsnip
The leaves of parsnip are much coarser than the leaves of parsley root.

The challenge with telling the difference between the two starts when the stems are removed and you only see the root. When found in supermarkets parsnip and parsley root look almost alike but there is one distinct characteristic that will help you to know the difference.

Parsley root looks a lot like a carrot, and the stems seems to be an direct extension of the root. The parsnip, however, looks a bit different.

On a parsnip the stems seem to grow from the inside of the root, making a dent around the top. Even though the stems are removed the dent remains, making it quite easy to tell the difference.

With that said, don’t panic if you get it wrong a couple of times. Parsnip can easily replace parsley root in most recipes and vice versa.

How to tell the difference between parsnip and parsley root
Parsnip, of the left, have a dent around the stems. Parsley root looks much more like a carrot.

7 Responses to Parsnip and parsley root

  1. Aniko Maier January 21, 2020 at 05:45 #

    Parsley root leaf parsley is just as good as plain parsley leaf or maybe better. Depends whos garden you picking the roots from.
    Also parsnip its sweeter than parsley roots

    • Food and Garden January 22, 2020 at 10:23 #

      For some reason I have never tried eating the leaves but now I will. I love parsley!

  2. Mim September 15, 2019 at 05:24 #

    I planted parsnip seeds and this must be the year parsley is growing large and flowering. Thank you so much for the difference at the tops.

  3. Elaine August 14, 2018 at 23:29 #

    As a native New Jerseyan, I only ever knew of parsnips. I didn’t know of parsley root (as an edible vegetable) until receiving recipes from my Czech mother-in-law. In fact, hubby first just translated that vegetable as “parsley”, making me think just the herb was required. He later clarified this.

    I’ve been married to my Czech hubby for over 20 years, and today was the first time I found parsley root in a local grocery store. Honestly, I thought it was just a baby parsnip at first. Then I saw a tag.

    Well, I have the Czech recipes calling for parsley root, but today I bought it with baby carrots with greens, and baby beets with greens, with the plan to roast them altogether. Will parsley root taste good roasted with beets and carrots? Or should I just save it for my Czech recipes? I have no idea what it tastes like

    • Food and Garden September 3, 2018 at 17:57 #

      Hello Elaine,

      Sorry for my later answer. I hope you found some good use for your parsley roots.

      As you might have discovered parsley root have a distinct smell of parsley, hence the name. They have a sweet taste like parsnip, especially when baked, and can be used in any way you would use parsnip.

      Roast them in the oven with other root vegetables, a bit of oliveoil, some red onions (wedges), fresh thyme and salt and pepper. It tastes divine!
      Or… Make a parsley root pure, perfect with fish and seafood.
      Or… make a blended soup. Could be a mix of parsley root, parsnip and jerusalem artichoke. Serve it with creme fraiche/sour creme, fresh chive and small bacon bits.

      I could go on 🙂

      Enjoy your newfound vegetable. I hope you really like it.

      Best regards,

    • Aniko Maier January 21, 2020 at 05:46 #

      Taste awesome

    • Filip Buřič September 28, 2022 at 01:53 #

      Roast away, it’ll be delicious 😁 it’s pretty much the same as parsnips when roasted

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