• Culinary History
  • Taproot Crops

Separated at Birth?
The Carrot and the Parsnip

  • by the Old White Hippie
  • 6800 words
  • 7 recipes

Table of Contents


This is not the article that I set out to write. That's okay. I've what I have uncovered to you, the reader. Along the way, I'll talk about the trials and tribulations of research, shine a bit of light on how I came to the facts and conclusions presented here, and just hold forth in general as I tend to do.

Originally, I had intended to track down Master Thomas, an SCA scholar and culinary historian of considerable repute, and confirm with him a memory that he had once told me that carrots and parsnips had been bred apart somewhere between the Roman era and the modern, and that to properly reproduce the flavor of medieval dishes, you need to use half carrots and half parsnips. The plan was to tell the story of the vegetables with my quest to reconnect with Master Thomas, whom I have not seen in many years, as a framing story. This has not worked out as planned. Apparently he’s not online as much as he used to be, in somewhat poor health, and just not available. I’ve tried reaching out through mutual friends to no avail. So much for the framing story.

The common ancestry of the vegetables appears to be more remote than I remembered. There’s also a good deal of confusion in historical sources over terminology, which I’ll get into more later. For right now, let’s deal with the elephant in the room: Apicius, de re Coquinaria, or Cooking and Dining in Imperial Rome, considered by many to be an authoritative primary source.

After reading through the Introduction to the 1936 English translation of Apicius, by Joseph Dommers Vehling, doing some substantiating research, and speaking with a college Latin professor, I've come to the conclusion that I cannot use Apicius as a primary source for the central thesis of this article. First off, there's considerable doubt as to the authorship of the work. Scholars can't even agree which of two men named Apicius should be credited for the text. Second, the book appears to be a compilation of efforts by multiple authors, building upon a fragmentary codex with pre-Roman, probably Greek, origins. Third, it's written in a peculiar vulgate that includes terms most likely derived from slang used in the kitchens, most likely originating with non-Roman slaves whose Latin, like their status, was forced. The terms carotae and pastinaca as used by Apicius are rare in the literature and perhaps somewhat dubious – Pliny referred to the parsnip as staphylinus – with daucum or ceras being more common terms for carrot/parsnip or parsnip/radish respectively, and radix as a term for root veg in general.

It's also been pointed out to me that we have very little in the way of Latin texts other than agricultural treatises that give specific terms for crops, vegetables, dish ingredients, etc. Apicius gets so much attention because it's the most solid example of its kind. Even there, the original work is more of a kitchen notebook, a collection of ideas meant for experienced cooks, than a recipe book. It has little in the way of detail, and no measurements. cooking times, or procedural descriptions.

All this to say, I cannot use what many consider an important primary source for culinary history to substantiate my hypothesis. Other sources are proving elusive, as noted above. We will plow onward (pun intended) and see what we discover.

Geography, Naming, Cultivars

To speak of the history of a vegetable is to speak of its variations. Every generation of humans has had its preferred cultivars, and produced new ones to align with the tastes of the era. When I was a child, the Danvers half long was the preferred carrot of backyard gardeners, partly because the stubby taproots didn't grow any further down than a rototiller could reach, and so wouldn't fork when they hit a deeply buried rock. Commercial growers in the USA prefer the Nantes cultivars for market presentation, but those produce a lot of carrots that end up diced into TV dinners and box mixes, or just thrown out as unattractive (the amount of food American shops waste is worth an article all on its own), because they grew a bit too crooked even with the fields plowed a foot and a half deep and gleaned for stones and other obstacles year after year. We won't get into the soil depletion that results from industrial agriculture. Anyone who has tasted organic carrots, grown in fields that are properly rotated and fertilized with compost instead of refined and fractioned chemicals, knows the difference. Between overused land and variations in cultivars, the carrots and parsnips we are eating today are unlikely to be the same as those our great grandparents ate, much less anything like those consumed in the medieval period or by the Romans. Trying to trace the evolution of the parsnip from classical Rome to modern Tennessee would be a lifetime's effort, and far beyond the scope of a survey article. I'm going to restrict myself to hitting a few of the high points, toss in some recipes from along the migration route, and call that enough.

Danvers half longs


One more note on the common origins hypothesis, and then I’ll cease to pursue it, I promise. The Latin word commonly used for either veg, daucum, survives today as the genus of the carrot, daucus. The term pastinaca, used likewise for either carrot or parsnip, similarly comes down to us as the genus of the parsnip. While the terms being somewhat interchangeable suggests a commonality, correlation is not causation, and I will leave it to those with better academic credentials than I to argue this one out. I'm going to call my hypothesis, that carrots and parsnips were bred apart sometime around the medieval era, unproven, and leave it at that. Let's get on to more useful information.

Carrots are distinctive for their sweet flavor, used in many cuisines as a sweetener or primary ingredient in sweet dishes, although lending themselves to savory concoctions as well, sometimes as a balance to sour or bitter ingredients. The carrot, daucus carota, has its origins deep in Central Asia, possibly in the vicinity of what is now Afghanistan. Cultivars of the eastern carrot survive to this day, in the purple and yellow varieties, deriving their coloration from anthocyanin pigments. The bright orange Western carrot came about in the Netherlands somewhere around the 15th century CE, gaining its color from carotenes. For historical recipes, therefore, it can definitively be said that any recipe from before 1400 CE should use purple or yellow cultivars.

Relatives include Queen Anne’s Lace, which has an edible taproot, and could theoretically be substituted for white carrots in recipes of earlier origin. As with any wild harvesting, some care must be taken to ensure that one has the correct plant. Other relatives are not nearly so benign, such as cow parsnip and giant hogweed. Both of those are toxic, with the juices causing photodermatitis, burns to contaminated skin upon being exposed to light. Running into these in the wild can result in blistering to an alarming degree, in severe cases requiring skin grafts.

Parsnips, pastinaca sativa, have white taproots, and a distinctive nutty / spicy flavor that some people find reminiscent of nutmeg or cinnamon. While you will find articles stating that they are related to carrots but not in the same family, this is a result of Linnaean classification, which far too often demonstrates a highly Eurocentric bias. Older civilizations from outside the European colonial sphere have had significantly different ideas. Their wild relatives include the aforementioned cow parsnip, the wild parsnip whose five-inch yellow flowers can also cause photodermatitis by touch, and water hemlock, whose name alone ought to be warning enough not to trifle with it.

Both vegetables have spread far and wide since their origins, and gone through enough permutations that it would take a catalog to list all the cultivars currently available as seed, never mind those that have been lost to history.

Growing Your Own

Both carrots and parsnips are biennials, usually grown in the West as annuals and harvested for their edible taproots. If you want seed, you have to leave them over the winter (mulched heavily) and let them bloom the next spring. As a side note, some people leave the roots in the ground over the winter, mounding them over with compost, as they say the cold improves the flavor. Your mileage may vary, but parsnips are generally not harvested until after the first frost. Carrots on the other hand can be harvested as soon as you see orange shoulders at the base. Pull one and bite into it, you’ll know if it’s ready.

Both grow best in loose, sandy soil, with a high humus content and a pH of around 6.5. While no-till methods are viable with a prepared patch, the first time you use the growing area you’ll need to work it down at least 12 inches (30 cm) and remove tree roots, rocks, and other detritus that will cause the roots to fork and twist. If you have clay soil, amend it with plenty of well-rotted compost and a bit of sand or vermiculite the year before planting. I’ve had good luck planting daikons in the patch the first year, as daikons will break up hard soil on their own. Once the daikons are pulled, fill the holes with compost and vermiculite, leave it over the winter, then loosen and mix the soil the following spring, and you’ve got a root veg patch with the plants having done most of the work for you. See Fukuoka Masanobu’s One Straw Revolution for more details on this technique.

Pro tip: You can get soil test kits from World of Science and other educational stores for a lot cheaper than the ones you buy through agricultural and scientific supply houses, and they’re just as good for the level of gardening a lot of people are doing, backyard and community level stuff.

Both crops grow best from direct-sown seed. Plant carrots when daytime temperatures are above 65F (18C) and you’re well past any danger of frost. Parsnips will ignore a mild frost and can be sown 2 to 3 weeks before your average last frost date, as soon as the soil can be worked. Both prefer full sun but will grow just fine with partial shade. As to how you plant, well, I’m very conservative with my seed supply, and tend to carefully place each one, but I’m partial to working in four foot by four foot squares with each patch home to a guild, a collection of plants that grow well together. For instance, lettuce and spinach grow well alongside parsnips, and harvesting them won’t disturb the developing taproots. If you’re doing a large field, you’ll need a seed dropper on your plow that’s set to put them at least 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Yes, you can do this with a horse-drawn plow, people have been building seed droppers since the moldboard was invented. Cover shallowly, no more than a half inch. Water gently so as not to wash out the seed or compact the dirt. Oversaturation or under-watering either one can cause the surface to crust over and prevent the seedlings from breaking through. Be patient, especially with parsnips, as they will germinate slowly in colder weather.

Given that carrots and parsnips are subject to the same insects and diseases, planting them in a mixed culture with unrelated crops may give you better results than monocropping in a row-and-hoe configuration. I detest thinning, a waste of perfectly viable plants from over sowing, and row-and-hoe pretty much demands that, where a guild patch with a mixture of crops each sown thinly and assembled with an eye to space requirements, sprouting and growing times, and succession of harvesting just takes a bit more thought and observation, and can defend itself better against predation. For example, putting a thin line of radishes around the outside of the patch will help protect against nematodes. The radishes sprout and grow much more quickly than carrots, parsnips, turnips, and rutabagas, and as soon as a radish looks droopy or wilty, you can toss it and the nematodes it’s trapped into the compost pile and drop in another radish seed.

Pro tip: Mix up a spray bottle with mostly water, a shot of rubbing alcohol, a couple of capfuls of neem oil, a drop of green liquid soap, and an aspirin. Shake thoroughly before each use, and if it sits more than a week, add a little more alcohol. You can spray this on your plants as needed, and harvest the next day. Just wash the fruit or blooms thoroughly as the spray will leave a weird, bitter taste. The aspirin introduces salicylic acid, which plants use as a signaling mechanism when under attack. Beneficials such as ambush bugs and insectivorous birds will follow a trail of salicylates, expecting to find a feast awaiting. Neem also kills powdery mildew, but you still need to pick off the heavily infected leaves. I’ve found neem more effective against powdery mildew with zucchini and other broad-leaf plants that with frond-style plants like carrots and parsnips.

As far as container gardening, root veg like carrots and parsnips require considerable space below ground, and aren’t good choices for growing in buckets. If you’ve got half a whiskey barrel, where your soil depth is going to be 18 inches (45 cm) or more, you may be able to get this to work. Potatoes do well in a whiskey barrel or bucket, but they grow from the seed piece upwards, where taproot veg grows from the seed at the surface downwards. if you’re going to get seriously into container gardening, I recommend starting with The Bountiful Container as your guide.

Growing Problems and How to Solve Them

Let’s pull in some text from Harvest to Table that provides troubleshooting tips for both veg. Tips specific to one or the other are labeled as such. If it doesn’t specify, then it applies to both. The following is directly quoted from the linked article.

  • Seedlings fail to emerge. (1) Soil crusting: keep planting beds evenly moist until seedlings emerge; protect planting beds from heavy overhead irrigation or heavy rain which will cause soil to compact and crust. (2) High temperatures can keep seed from germinating.

  • Seeds rot or seedlings collapse with dark water-soaked stems as soon as they appear. Damping off is a fungus that lives in the soil, particularly where humidity is high. Do not plant in cold, moist soil. Make sure soil is well drained. Avoid overcrowding carrots and parsnips.

  • Carrots emerge in clumps or not at all. Seed sown too shallow. Warm weather or dry conditions will cause seed to dry and not germinate. Cover seed with 1 inch of fine aged-compost or vermiculite. Keep soil evenly moist to allow for germination.

  • Plants bolt–flower and set seed. Exposure to below freezing temperatures or prolonged exposure to temperatures below 65°F early in the season. Protect young plants from cold with floating row cover or hot kaps.

  • Leaves curl under, become deformed, and yellowish. Aphids are tiny, oval, and yellowish to greenish pear-shaped insects that colonize on the undersides of leaves. They leave behind sticky excrement called honeydew which can turn into a black sooty mold. Blast them away with water from a hose. Use insecticidal soap.

  • Small holes in leaves of seedlings. Flea beetles are tiny bronze or black beetles that eat small holes in the leaves of seedlings and small transplants. The larvae feed on roots of germinating plants. Spread diatomaceous earth around seedling. Cultivate often to disrupt life cycle. Keep garden clean.

  • Leaves are chewed. Snails and slugs feed on leaves. Hand pick at night when these pests feed or set out saucers of beer at soil level to attract and drown slugs and snails.

  • Leaves turn yellow and then brown from the bottom up; plant loses vigor. Root knot nematode is a microscopic eelworm that attacks feeder roots. Rotate crops. Remove old plant debris from garden. If pest nematodes are persistent, solarize the planting bed.

  • Leaves appear scorched, yellowed, curled, and wilted. Leafhoppers are green, brown, or yellow bugs to ⅓-inch long with wedge-shaped wings. They jump sideways and suck the juices from plants. Use insecticidal soap. Cover plants with floating row covers to exclude leafhoppers.

  • Inner leaves yellowed; outer leaves reddish-purple; roots stunted and bitter. Aster yellows is a mycoplasma disease spread by leafhoppers. Remove infected plants. Control leafhoppers. Keep the garden free of weeds which can harbor disease.

  • Mottled light and dark green pattern on leaves; leaves are distorted and may become brittle and easily broken; plants are stunted. Mosaic virus has no cure; it is spread from plant to plant by aphids and leafhoppers. There is no cure for the virus. Remove diseased plants. Remove broadleaf weeds that serve as virus reservoir. Infected plants can produce edible fruit but the size and yield is reduced.

  • Round white powdery spots and coating on leaves. Powdery mildew is a fungal disease. Fungal spores germinate on dry leaf surfaces when the humidity is high; spores do not germinate on wet leaves. Common in late summer or fall but does not result in loss of plant. Avoid water stress. Pick off infected leaves.

  • Grayish-white mold growth on soil surface and clinging to roots. Southern blight or white mold is a fungal disease that favors wet conditions. Keep planting beds well-drained; add aged compost. Avoid overhead watering. Keep garden clean of debris and weeds which can shelter fungus spores.

  • Brown spots on leaves or roots. Leaf blight is a fungal disease–Cercospora leaf spot–spread by heavy rainfall and warm temperatures. Keep weeds down in the garden area; they can shelter fungal spores. Avoid overhead watering. Avoid planting in infested soil. Nitrogen fertilizer may help. Keep weeds out of garden.

  • Root tops are green. Roots tops exposed to sunlight; green chlorophyll develops. Cover exposed root shoulders with soil or mulch. Green roots are inedible.

  • Roots are long, thin, and spindly, or short and stumpy. Soil temperature is too high or too low. The optimal carrot growing soil temperature is between 60°F and 70°F. Roots that develop in warm soils, between 70°F and 80°F produce short, stumpy roots.

  • Roots are thin and spindly. Weed competition for water and nutrients. Keep garden free of weeds. Keeping the garden weed free must begin at sowing time when growing carrots.

  • Longitudinal cracks in roots. Soil water is inconsistent, wet then dry, wet then dry. Keep planting bed evenly moist. Mulch to retain even soil moisture. Harvest carrots before they become over-mature; carrots are best before they reach full maturity. Possible born deficiency. Test soil and apply borax to bring boron level up if necessary. Carrots with cracked roots can still be eaten.

  • Roots rot or have enlarged white “eyes’. Overwatering; water less often. Plant in well-drained soil. Avoid planting in heavy soil.

  • Roots are pale orange. Air temperatures too cool, below 65°F. Avoid planting carrots too early in spring.

  • Roots are hairy. Plants are over fertilized–too much nitrogen–or roots are in contact with fresh manure. Add aged compost to planting beds. Add manure to planting beds the fall before spring planting so that it has time to work into the soil. Rotate crops. Thin carrots early.

  • Roots twist around each, forked, or deformed. Plants are too close. Thin carrots from 1 to 2 inches apart depending upon the variety when they are young. Make sure planting bed is free of clods and rock. Growing roots will split or grow sideways if they encounter obstacles in the soil. Rough branching can also be caused by too much manure in the soil. Use only well-rotted manure.

  • Root forked or twisted. Root-knot nematodes are microscopic worm-like animals that live in the film of water that coat soil particles; some are pests, some are not. Root-knot nematodes feed in the roots and stunt plant growth; they are most common in sandy soils. Rotate crops. Solarize the soil with clear plastic in mid-summer.

  • Roots have small black holes. Wireworms are the soil-dwelling larvae of click beetles; they look like wirey-jointed worms. Check soil before planting; flood the soil if wireworms are present. Remove infested plants and surrounding soil.

  • Roots and stems are chewed. Carrot weevils are dark brown to coppery, hard-shelled weevils to 1/5-inch long. The larvae are white legless grubs with brown heads. The grubs mine into carrot tops and roots. Handpick and destroy. Cultivate the soil to interrupt the weevil’s life cycle. Add parasitic nematodes to the planting bed.

  • Roots are tunneled; rusty mush oozes from tunnels. Carrot rust fly maggot is yellow to white, about ⅓-inch long. The carrot rust fly is black and green, about 1/5-inch long. Fly lays eggs in crown of carrot plants. Sprinkle rock phosphate around base of plants. Peel off damaged area before using. Harvest carrots as soon as possible. Do not store carrots in ground through winter. Keep garden clean of weeds. Delay planting until late spring or summer to avoid carrot rust fly life cycle.

  • Roots are discolored and decayed. Root rot or cavity spot is a fungal disease that favors warm soil. Remove infected plants. Don’t let carrots sit in the garden; older roots are susceptible to root rot. Keep garden clean of weeds and plant debris that harbor fungus. Be sure transplants are not diseased. Rotate crops regularly. Solarize the soil in late spring or summer.

  • Carrots are bitter flavored. Exposure to hot, dry weather. Mulch planting beds with aged compost to retain soil moisture and keep soil cool. Carrots burn sugars in warm weather; the result is loss of sweetness. Avoid growing carrots with nighttime temperatures are greater than 60°F.

  • Roots are difficult to lift. Side-roots will sometimes make carrots difficult to life. Use a digging fork to loosen the soil around carrots before harvest. Use a gentle twisting motion to lift carrots. Soaking the soil with water before harvest can cause roots to rot in place.

  • Parsnips have poor flavor. Insufficient exposure to below freezing temperatures; parsnips develop sweetness with exposure to cold. Do not lift parsnips until the second or third frost has passed.

What Do Folks Do With These?

I’m going to talk about culinary uses here. Carrots and parsnips do have medicinal uses, but I’m not qualified to speak on that topic. Consult your local botanical medicine authority before attempting any such use of any plant. If that’s yourself, fine and dandy.


Most folks in Western cultures are going to be familiar with carrots and parsnips as side dishes, addenda to meats, and other savory uses. They’re also good in centerpiece dishes in a vegetarian diet. Along with rutabagas and turnips, they’re sometimes known as the forgotten vegetables, as people just don’t think about them much, or grow and use them, which is a darn shame let me tell you. Let’s delve into a few example recipes here. We’ll start with a few developed more or less from guidance from Apicius, or other Roman sources, since that’s kind of where our focus is for this article.

Roasted Parsnips and Carrots (Roman)


  • 1 1/2 pounds parsnips, peeled
  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • minced fresh dill


  1. Preheat the oven to 425° F.
  2. Slice the parsnips and carrots into 1 inch slices, roughly the same sizes. Keep in mind that they will shrink when you cook them.
  3. Place the vegetables on a sheet pan and toss with the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Roast for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally until the parsnips and carrots are tender.
  5. Remove from oven and sprinkle with dill.
  6. Serve hot.


  • Many combinations of vegetables could work here, you can also try other herbs if you don’t like dill. Play around and see what works best for you.

Parsnip Fries with Wine Sauce (Roman, 5th Century CE)

Then there is the carrot. ‘This vegetable,’ says Diphilus, ‘Is harsh, but tolerably nutritious, and moderately good for the stomach; but it passes quickly through the bowels and causes flatulence. It is indigestible, diuretic, and not without some influence in prompting men to amatory feelings, on which account it is called a love-philtre by some people.” ~ Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae [The Philosophers’ Dinner-party], 2nd century CE


  • 3 large parsnips or (non-orange) carrots
  • Enough olive oil to fill a pot about two inches deep
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1/3 of a cup fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons ground black or long pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of cornstarch


  1. Wash and peel the parsnips and cut them into small pieces. I did half-circle wedges, but you could also try a traditional French fry shape. Dry the parsnip pieces thoroughly with a paper towel.
  2. Fill a pot with olive oil up to around two inches and raise the heat to medium-high. After a few minutes, drop a small piece of parsnip in to test if the oil is hot enough to fry. When the oil is ready, fry the parsnips a few pieces at a time (they are moist and will produce a lot of bubbles). Move the parsnips around with a wooden spoon or other tool to prevent them sticking.
  3. When the parsnips are golden brown on the outside, remove from the oil and drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
  4. Next, make the oenogarum. Bring the red wine to a low boil in a saucepan. When it has reduced by about one-third, add the fish sauce and pepper. Mix the cornstarch and about half a cup of water into a slurry in a separate bowl, Slowly add this to the wine while stirring with a spoon to prevent clumping. Reduce the mixture another third. The end result should have the consistency of barbecue sauce, thicker than water but liquid enough to pour.
  5. Serve as you would French fries and ketchup, with the wine-sauce drizzled on top of the parsnips or on the side for dipping.

Pastinacae (Roman)

Website Note: AFAIK, this recipe comes from Grant and was inserted by original site author (have I not said to buy these author's books? Please do so and support them.... Hopefully, will not get a nasty letter about this)…


  • 500g/1 lb carrots
  • Olive oil for frying
  • Sea salt (optional)


  1. Wash and peel the carrots, cut them into strips and steam gently for 10 minutes.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the carrots until they begin to turn brown.
  3. Serve hot, sprinkled with salt if you wish.

Carrot and Parsnip Mash (Ireland)

Carrots are harder than parsnips and take longer to cook. To make sure your parsnips don’t go mushy while you wait for your carrots to tenderize you have a few options.

  • First, you can just chop the carrots into smaller pieces than the parsnips, and boil the vegetables together in the same pot for the same amount of time.

  • Or you can give the carrots a head start before adding the parsnips. If boiling the vegetables a 7 minute lead time is good, but if steaming, the carrots need at least 10 minutes extra cooking. So steam the carrots for about 10 minutes, then add the parsnips and steam them both for about 20 more minutes until they are fork tender.

  • Or you can do what my mom always did, and cook the parsnips and carrots in two separate saucepans, and only combine them when they are tender, drained and ready to mash.


  • 3 large carrots
  • 2 medium parsnips
  • 2 ounces butter
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt to season
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper to season


  1. Wash and peel the carrots and parsnips. Cut evenly in 1/2 inch slices.
  2. Place the carrots in a steamer, add water to the pan base. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the parsnips to the carrots in the steamer. Simmer for a further 15 to 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
  4. Drain the vegetables. Return them to the pot. Add the butter and cream and mash the vegetables together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve warm and garnish with butter and parsley if desired.

Carrot Soup with Chermoula (North African)

Chermoula, if unfamiliar is a flavorful condiment originating from the northern most countries of Africa — Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. A blend of fresh herbs, olive oil, lemon zest and toasted spices, it adds an unexpected brightness and punch of earthy flavor to the soup. It can be made spicy or kept mild … and be sure to save the leftover Chermoula for a tasty marinade for fish, chicken or tofu.
Author: Sylvia Fountaine


  • 2 tablespoon olive oil (or butter)
  • 1 lbs scrubbed carrots-cut into 1/2 inch disks
  • ½ a large onion- diced (1 cup)
  • 4 garlic cloves-smashed
  • 1 1/2 tsp Cumin seeds
  • 4 cups chicken or veggie stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup
  • ¼ cup yogurt or sour cream ( or vegan yogurt or sour cream)

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted
  • 1 cup cilantro
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley (or sub more cilantro)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme (optional)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Zest from 1/2 lemon (about 1 tsp)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes -or more for spicier
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. In a heavy bottom pot, saute onion, cumin seeds and smashed garlic in oil, on medium high heat until golden and tender, about 5-6 minutes, stirring often.
  2. Add carrots, chicken stock, salt, white pepper, bay leaves and bring to a vigorous simmer. Cover and simmer on med low heat for 20 minutes or until carrots are easily pierced with the tip of a knife. Let cool slightly.
  3. Make the Chermoula: Toast the spices in dry skillet over medium until fragrant and golden. Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined into a paste, but not too smooth. Set aside in a bowl.
  4. Blend the soup using an immersion blender or in small batches in a blender until silky smooth.
  5. Place back in the pot and stir in sour cream and maple syrup. Adjust salt and spice level. (Keeping in mind Chermoula will add a LOT of flavor.) Keep warm on low heat until serving.
  6. Divide among bowls, and add a spoonful of chermoula, swirling it in a circle. Add more yogurt or sour cream if you like.


  • Of course you can use ground spices instead of whole seeds, but the toasted whole seeds will add that extra level of flavor that will wow your taste buds.

  • The original recipe included a 1/4 of an apple, sliced (at the same time as the carrots) to add a bit of sweetness to the soup. Feel free to add if you like a sweeter soup, and you may not need the maple syrup.


As previously noted, carrots and parsnips lend themselves to more than savouries. Here's a couple of ideas to get you started in this category.

Gajar Ka Halwa (India)

Gajar Ka Halwa or carrot halwa is a traditional Indian sweet or dessert made with fresh red carrots, milk and sugar. It's a winter delicacy.

Author: Neha Mathur

Old White Hippie says: Khoya can be bought at your local Desi market, or you can make your own by cooking down a gallon of whole milk very, very slowly, stirring frequently, over a few hours, until the sugars caramelize and you’re left with a nearly solid mass in the bottom of the cookpot. I’ve done this, and it’s a bit of a pill, but if you can’t find khoya locally and don’t want to mail order it, it’s just tedious, not hard.


  • 1/2 kg Carrots
  • 1/2 litre Full Fat Milk
  • 60 g Ghee
  • 1 tsp Freshly ground cardamom powder
  • 120 g Sugar
  • 125 g Khoya
  • Almond and pistachio slivers (For garnishing)


  1. Wash the carrot and peel them.
  2. Grate the carrot to medium thickness.
  3. Add the carrots and milk in a heavy bottom pan and cook on low heat until all the milk is absorbed.
  4. Add ghee in the pan along with cardamom powder.
  5. Fry for 4-5 minutes on low heat.
  6. Keep stirring continuously.
  7. Add sugar and cook for another 4-5 minutes.
  8. Add grated khoya and cook for 15-20 minutes on low heat until ghee starts to leave on the sides.
  9. Keep stirring in between.
  10. Garnish with almond and pistachio slivers.
  11. Serve warm.


  • Use red carrots to make this halwa. These carrots are available only in winters and the real taste of this halwa shines through when you use red carrots to make it.
  • You can replace the red carrots with black carrots too. Black Carrots are available in some parts of India during winters and they lend a great taste to this halwa.
  • Do not fry the grated carrot before adding milk otherwise they will turn dark in colour.
  • Add milk and carrots together in the pan and cook.
  • Grate the carrots to medium thickness. If you grate them too thin, the halwa will become mushy and if too thick, the pieces will stand out.
  • I used my food processor to grate the carrots but you can use a simple hand grater too.
  • Keep stirring the halwa at regular intervals. It need a lot a muscle work.
  • Make this halwa in batches if you are not able to handle all the heavy work.
  • You can freeze the halwa for 1-2 months. Just transfer it in a freezer safe box and freeze. Thaw before using and warm in microwave.
  • You can make this gajar halwa without khoya also. Increase the amount of milk by 1/2 litre and skip the khoya. Follow the remaining process exactly. However, the real of taste comes when khoya is added to it. So skip it, only if it is really not possible.

Parsnip and Apple Dessert (USA)

Parsnips and green apples come together for a healthy dessert. Great for those who are watching calories and fat and trying to eat more fruits and veggies. If you're really health conscious, you can omit the butter and add water to the pan in its place. Cook longer for desired texture; cook less or not at all for a healthier raw dessert.

Old White Hippie says: This is basically the stewed apples my wife makes with a parsnip thrown in. I’d add a drop of vanilla to the recipe.


  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into long thin pieces
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon


  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat; cook apples and parsnip in the melted butter until slightly softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir water, brown sugar, and cinnamon into apple-parsnip mixture; cook until sugar dissolves and apple-parsnip mixture has softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Serve warm or cold.

Home Canning

First off: I am not an authority on this subject. See your home extension office or other appropriate local or national authority on small agriculture for often-free information on how to safely home-preserve food. The Ball home canning handbook is generally considered authoritative in the United States.

Second, cleanliness prevents botulism. Sanitize your work area. Wash everything before getting food involved. Simmer your jars and rings in hot water on the stove, and dunk your lids in boiling or at least simmering water before closing your jars. This will also prevent your jars from cracking, as they’ll already be hot when you put them into the pressure canner.

  • A lot of home canning recipes will tell you to blanch your veg before canning. Fooey, all you’re doing is cooking nutrients out of them. Just remember that if you start with raw veg, you’ll lose some water (and volume) out of them in the canning process, so you want them well drained and packed into the jar as tight as you can manage.

  • If you’re going to can your carrots or parsnips, you might as well go ahead and make something with them and then can that, rather than just the veg itself. Unless you’re one of those people who really likes canned veg as ingredients, they do lend themselves to improvisation and variety in your diet. Up to you really.

  • Consider pickling. Carrots cut into sticks are lovely when pickled with jicama, cauliflower, and jalapenos. One of my favorite Mexican restaurants in Chicago served a bowl of hot pickled veggies instead of chips and salsa at the start of the meal.

  • Freezing may be your better option. I recommend slicing or shredding your parsnips and carrots, washing them well in a colander, then double-bagging with every last scrap of air squeezed out so they don’t get freezer burn. You’ll need a dedicated freezer for this, as the freezer drawer under your fridge isn’t going to be big enough. Bag up your veg in premeasured portions so you don’t have to thaw a big bag for one cup of chopped parsnips.

In Summary

I cannot establish my original hypothesis with the research I’ve been able to do. What I have found is that quite a few experts have very strong opinions on whether or not carrots and parsnips were one and the same in Roman times, and they vehemently disagree with each other. It’s clear that orange carrots are a much more recent invention, maybe in the Netherlands, maybe in the 14th century CE or maybe the 15th. I can thus establish that if you want a proper flavor to your Roman reconstruction cooking, you need to avoid orange carrots, and use purple or white ones, the aforementioned Eastern carrots that are closer to that long ago Afghani ancestor.

Sometimes listed amongst the forgotten vegetables, carrots and parsnips deserve more attention. We need to stop taking these humble staples for granted, and work with them to develop the flavors they carry. Far from filler in a bag of frozen stir fry veg, these are noble taproots with a long history, and if you get properly raised ones, sweet enough to make a dessert from yet going well in savory dishes as well. Grow your own if you can, buy local from farmers you know, shop organic at the supermarket if you must, but seek out the varieties that have been raised with care and proper attention. Their crisp sweetness and sharp bite go hand in hand in some of the finest cooking of the ancient world, and on your own table.


Let’s make sure we’ve documented our sources properly. Recipes are cited in their header sections. Other links may be found throughout the article in context.

Books and Papers

Apicius. de re Coquinaria, or Cooking and Dining in Imperial Rome. Translated by Joseph Dommers Vehling. Walter M. Hill, 1936.

Private communication, Christine Steer, MPhil (Cambridge), Dept of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 2020-08-22

Web Pages

Beware of Dangerous Carrots, Morning Ag Clips, https://www.morningagclips.com/beware-of-dangerous-carrots/, retrieved 2020-08-14

Carrots, McGill University, https://www.cs.mcgill.ca/~rwest/wikispeedia/wpcd/wp/c/Carrot.htm, retrieved 2020-08-13

Growing Carrots and Parsnips, Harvest to Table, https://harvesttotable.com/carrot_and_parsnip_growing_pro/, retrieved 2020-08-13

Planting Parsnips, Harvest to Table, https://harvesttotable.com/planting_parsnips/, retrieved 2020-08-13