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Publication #HS640

Parsnip—Pastinaca sativa L.1

James M. Stephens2

Parsnip is related to the carrot, which it resembles, at least in the root and habit of growth. Unlike the orange-colored roots of carrots, parsnip roots are creamy white on the exterior and white on the inside. Parsnips are reported to have originated in the Mediterranean area, where wild forms were used for food by the Romans. By the 16th century, parsnips were cultivated in Germany, England, and soon thereafter in the American colonies. American Indians learned to grow and store them for eating in the winter.

Figure 1. 



James M. Stephens, UF/IFAS

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]


Part of the parsnip's attraction as a vegetable is its ability to be frozen in the ground, thawed out in the soil, and then later eaten. Its adaptability to colder climates contributes to its low level of popularity as a fresh vegetable in Florida gardens. Winters here are seldom cool enough to produce the vigorous roots and the sweetness imparted to the roots by cooler soils. However, many Florida gardeners will have fair to good results upon occasion.

The parsnip top closely resembles the top of broadleaf parsley. The popular variety 'Harris Model' developed good top growth but spindly roots when planted in North Florida trials in September.

Start parsnips from seed in a manner similar to that for carrots. Normally, about 120 days are required from seeding to root harvest. Seed of this biennial are readily available. They are not long-lived in storage, as it is best to purchase new seed each season.


Since parsnip roots tend to shrivel easily in storage, they are quite often heavily waxed when marketed in retail channels.



This document is HS640, one of a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date May 1994. Revised September 2015. Reviewed October 2018. Visit the EDIS website at


James M. Stephens, professor emeritus, Horticultural Sciences Department; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.