Once the tops ofturn yellow and begin to die back, they are ready for harvesting. Parsnips sown in early spring should be ready in mid-autumn, but do not rush to pull them all up. The flavour of parsnips is improved by frost, which increases the sugar content of the root, so leave most of them in the ground and dig some up when you want them during the winter. Do not leave any in the ground after February, however, as then they will start to grow again and become woody and useless.
Small parsnips in lightcan be pulled up once the soil around them has been loosened with a fork. Normally, however, the only way parsnips can be lifted without breaking them is by digging. Begin at the end of the row and dig a hole beyond, but close to, the last parsnip. Dig the hole as deep as the parsnip and loosen the soil around the root, which can be then easily removed without damage. Lift the next parsnip by moving the soil next to it into the hole from which the first parsnip has been taken and continue like this to the end of the row.
You will probably find you have to dig down much further than you expect. The end of a parsnip root tapers off for a considerable length, 15 cm (6”) or more, and has a surprisingly strong grip on the soil. In fact, it will probably be necessary to break off the thinnest part of the root, if you want to avoid digging a sizable hole 45 cm (18”) deep for each root.
Once the parsnips have been lifted, cut off any remaining leaves with a knife. The discarded tops are excellentheap material.
Although the best-flavoured parsnips are those lifted and taken into the kitchen straight from the ground, obviously you will not be able to do this when the ground is frozen hard in the middle of winter. To give you parsnips during this period, therefore, you should dig up some roots in the early winter for storing.
Store the parsnips in the same way as you would carrots. Cut any leaves off close to the crowns and then pack the roots in layers of dry sand or peat in a large wooden box. Put a lid on the top to keep out the light and place the box in a cool, dry and airy place.