The Roots of March

by Doug Muller

The thawing soils of March make one of my favorite root vegetables available: parsnips. Some dislike their powerful, sweet, tangy flavor, but I love it.

Fresh parsnips, post-scrub. Fresh parsnips, post-scrub.

The other day, while scouring the garden in search of surviving green vegetables, I remembered the parsnip patch at the back of the garden. I grabbed a shovel, dug in, and unearthed some pale-rooted beauties.

004 Crispy roasted parsnip strips (with frozen green beans and tempeh in the background).

I brought them in, gave 'em a scrub, sliced them into long slabs and then steamed them briefly. After letting them cool, I dipped them in a flat bowl of oil, salt, pepper, and dried fines herbes. Roast them for fifteen minutes at 400, and yum--what a treat! It takes a full year of foresight to enjoy such good eating at this otherwise lean time of year, though; parsnip seeds must be direct sown in mid- to late-April, left to grow all season, and then allowed to over-winter in the frozen garden. This process sweetens the roots, which are at their finest from now until about mid-April. Unfortunately, we aren't offering parsnip seed this year. We do plan on offering it next year, hopefully with some homegrown seed. We should definitely have it for the 2011 season; we'll be planting a big crop for seed this year.

The other root that dominates my early March garden thinking is celeriac. Celeriac--or celery root--is delicious, mild, and very easy to grow. But it's a slowpoke. It must be started by mid- to late-March in order for the gnarly-looking bulb to swell up to a reasonable size for fall harvest. Again, not something we're offering this year, but we're starting tons for the 2011 season (roots--with the exception of radishes--take two years to yield seed).

Kale checks out the packages; they pass inspection. Kale checks out the packages; they pass inspection.

One last root--er, route--on our mind is the one that leads from here to the post office. We've had a good run of sales recently, and you're keeping us busy packing up orders. Many, many thanks! Keep 'em coming--if you've got any gardening friends or neighbors who you think might be into what we're doing, please refer them this way!

Stay seedy! --Doug