A meandering blog with no clear topic. You will find me talking about knitting, building, kids, social and economic issues, Alaska, and lots of other stuff.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

a learning experience

These are parsnips. A yummy, white root vegetable very similar to carrots. They are from my garden. But they are in my compost bin. So what happened??? Well, last summer was terrible for growing. Nothing in my garden grew well last year. Well, we were happy to see our parsnips growing this spring, and were hoping that they would finally get to harvestable size....
NO! I was reading the other night in "The Backyard Homestead" by Marjorie Page, and came across a section regarding wintering vegetables over in the garden. I was reading with interest, and it said, regarding parsnips, "be sure to harvest before second growth begins, as they become poisonous at that time." Whoa! This was total news to me. So we promptly pulled all the parsnips up and put them in the compost pile.
This was sort of a learning experience for me. I am not an experienced vegetable gardener. I am just sort of going along, learning, seeing what works. I knew things like rhubarb leaves are toxic, and if potatoes are left in the sun, they become inedible. But I had no idea about this. And these sorts of things are IMPORTANT. This was something I really needed to know before feeding them to my family. I shudder to think what could have happened if I hadn't happened to pick this book up at Barnes and Noble last week.
I guess my point is that it is important when you are embarking on a new project, to learn what you can from other sources, and not do it all by personal experience. Otherwise, you are in for some personal experiences that are less than pleasant.


Chile said...

Yikes! Guess I'm glad we're not growing parsnips yet.

homebrewlibrarian said...

Ah, I would have left the parsnips in the ground and let them flower. Parsnips as well as much of the cabbage family and a number of root veggies are biennials, meaning they flower and set seed in the second year. Broccoli and radishes seem to be exceptions.

I bought some small parsnips grown last year from a farm booth at the farmer's market and planted them. Out of eight roots, six have sprouted and four are getting close to flowering. My plan is to save any seed the flowers produce. If your compost pile hasn't completely broken down your parsnips, I'd replant a few and hope for flowers and seeds.

I agree that it's best to read up and learn as much as you can on whatever it is you're doing for the first time. Less nasty surprises that way. However, I'm not finding any corrobation that sprouting second year parsnips are toxic. I think they get all woody and flavorless so you really wouldn't want to eat them but toxic? Not finding anything that suggests that.

Some notes on parsnips though:
It takes a long time for parsnip seeds to germinate so plant early!
Parsnip seeds lose viability quickly so getting new seed every year is suggested (hint: let your parsnips flower the second year!)
Parsnips sweeten up considerably after a hard frost or two which converts the starches to sugars.