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Parsnips (Pastinaca sativa) can be prepared in a number of ways. But can they also be eaten raw or are they poisonous when raw? Read everything you need to know below.

In a nutshell

  • Parsnip is a winter vegetable
  • safe to eat raw
  • raw consumption healthier than cooked
  • nevertheless conditionally toxic


The parsnip belongs to the umbelliferae (Apiaceae) and is a winter vegetable. It is in season between the end of October/beginning of November and April. This type of vegetable is mainly known for its root, which is mainly used for the special taste in soups. Eating them raw is not common in local areas. However, since it has the highest content of healthy ingredients in its raw state, eating it raw is actually recommended. As soon as heat comes into play, for example by cooking, the content decreases slightly.

Parsnips partially poisonous

This umbellifer contains essential oils. For humans, these are harmless even when consumed raw. There are no restrictions on the quantity.

Although harmless to humans, parsnips pose some health risks to pets.

However, some animals can react to the essential oils with symptoms of poisoning. In particular, young and old/sick dogs and cats usually react strongly to it, because their metabolism cannot process essential oils well.

The following symptoms of poisoning can occur in animals:

  • stomach pain
  • vomiting and diarrhea
  • weakness
  • muscle tremors and cramps
  • Movement disorders
  • high fever
  • possibly breathing problems

Be careful when harvesting!

Anyone who grows parsnips should be careful when harvesting the leaves. They contain what is known as furocoumarine, a type of natural defense substance that plants produce. Sensitive people can experience skin irritation, blistering and burn-like conditions. However, this only happens if UV light hits it immediately after skin contact with plant sap. Since this cannot occur during consumption, the reactions mentioned inside the body are not to be expected.

Tip: It is therefore best to harvest the leaves with gloves!

Raw edible plant parts

All parts of the parsnip can be eaten raw, including the skin. Directly below this are most of the vitamins. Therefore, the roots should either not be peeled at all or only peeled extremely thinly. The stems can be crushed like the leaves and spread raw over dishes and dishes as a herb.

This is what raw parsnips taste like

If you want to eat the root vegetables raw, you will experience a much milder aroma than when they are boiled, roasted or roasted. A nutty, slightly sweet note is easy to taste. If winter vegetables are exposed to frost, they taste even milder and sweeter. Nevertheless, the taste is spicier compared to carrots. The aroma of the leaves is reminiscent of parsley, but has a slight note of fennel.

Parsnip (left) and parsley (right) leaves

Tip: To avoid confusion with parsley, note the leaves as well. Both have pinnate leaves, but the parsnip has one or two pinnate leaves and the parsley has two or three pinnate leaves. In addition, parsnip leaves are always smooth, smell slightly of fennel and reach stalk heights of up to three meters.

Cook the parsnips raw

Whether they're store-bought or harvested from your own garden, parsnips are ready to eat raw as soon as they're brushed and washed. Only the following details should be observed:

  • wrinkled parsnips more suitable for boiling, simmering, frying
  • Always peel wrinkled skins first
  • leave in one piece until processed or eaten raw
  • cutting too early leads to dehydration

Tip: If you have already peeled a fresh parsnip but do not eat it raw straight away, it will quickly turn brown. To avoid this, place the peeled vegetables in a bowl of cold water until ready to eat or process.

Shelf life of raw parsnips

A fresh, raw parsnip will quickly turn unsightly brown and mushy at room temperature. As a result, there is a lack of "crispness" and taste, especially for raw consumption. For this reason, the pastinaca should be placed in the refrigerator immediately after harvesting or purchase. It stays there for three to four weeks. It can also be frozen, giving it a shelf life of between ten and twelve months. However, after thawing, it loses stability and becomes softer. Freezing doesn't affect the taste, it's just not as al dente when eaten raw.

For a longer shelf life, you should always store vegetables in the refrigerator.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should be considered when buying fresh parsnips for raw consumption?

Basically, it should always be freshly harvested parsnips. You can recognize them by their smooth skin and firm consistency. We also recommend young, smaller specimens around 20 centimeters in length and weighing around 300 grams. Experience has shown that these have a more aromatic taste and are more tender to the bite. Large parsnips often taste woody. In addition, there should be no pressure points.

How to prevent browning of raw parsnips in salad?

So that the raw parsnip does not turn brown while the prepared salad is standing, you should drizzle it with lemon juice before preparing the salad. This prevents rapid browning.

Can Babies Eat Parsnips Raw Instead of Cooked Porridge?

Theoretically, from the age of five months yes, if they have enough teeth to chew. This is usually the case around the first year of life. Then they can be given to nibble on. Apart from the numerous healthy nutrients, they also have a bowel movement-regulating effect, have a slightly calming effect on the stomach and are easily digestible. The little ones usually like the slightly sweet aroma.

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