My first introduction to parsley root was on a rooftop garden in Whistler, B.C., where a chef pulled out what appeared to be a whole parsley plant and then delicately shaved away bits of the root for a group of writers to taste. Later, he’d use it in a part of our meal. When I found seeds at my local seed supplier, I jumped at the chance to grow this root vegetable that offers more than one crop. In this article, I’m going to share some growing tips, recommend patience, and explain what the heck to do with it.
An heirloom vegetable that dates back before the 17th century, and much more popular in Central Europe (Germany, Poland, Hungary, etc.), parsley root (Petroselinum crispum var. tuberosum) is also referred to as Hamburg parsley, Dutch parsley, and turnip-rooted parsley. I’ve seen it likened to what celeriac or celery root is to celery.
A member of the carrot family, parsley root looks like a parsnip. But the long, slender roots are more of a creamy white hue. The roots can reach about six to eight inches (15 to 20 cm) in length. Both the edible roots and the leaves contain nutrients. The root is a source of antioxidants, as well as vitamin C, fiber, potassium, magnesium, folate, and zinc. It’s also supposed to help with inflammation.
Planting parsley root seeds
Root parsley needs about six to 12 hours of sun. The raised bed in which I’ve grown this root veggie is on the less sunshine end of that scale, so I find my roots don’t ever get to be quite as big. However that said, maybe I don’t leave them in the ground long enough!
Because this is a root vegetable, you’ll want nice, loose friable soil to prevent forking. Amend the vegetable garden with compost in the fall or early spring. Parsley root is one of those veggies you can plant in the ground before the heat lovers.
Sow seeds in rows about a quarter of an inch (about .5 cm) deep. Space out your rows about 12 to 24 inches (30.5 to 61 cm) apart. I’ve found the seeds slow to germinate, but once a seedling gets going, you’ll see those telltale flat leaf parsley-like leaves growing up through the soil. It takes about 14 to 35 days to sprout, so be patient! The first time I grew parsley root, I assumed it wasn’t going to germinate, but then one day I realized my row was growing!
I did see a tip on the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds website to store the seeds in the refrigerator a few weeks before planting. They can be planted when the soil is about 65°F to 70°F (18°C to 21°C). My seed packet for the Nordic-Hilmar variety recommended sowing seeds when the soil temperature is about 60°F (16°C).
Caring for your crop
You’ll want to thin out your seedlings, as you would carrots, once the leaves start to appear. Try to space plants out so they are roughly three inches (7.5 cm) apart. This will encourage a thicker root to form, like a carrot or parsnip.
If the soil becomes too dry during the summer, the roots can fork. Keep an eye on your garden if your region is experiencing drought, to ensure plants are consistently watered.
Harvesting parsley root
Parsley root is ready about 90 days after it germinates. That’s three to four months of waiting! However, you can leave them in the ground to harvest until a killing frost. (They can actually taste sweeter after a frost.) And, if you mulch correctly, you may be able to leave them in the ground even longer, like a winter carrot. I haven’t managed to grow enough to keep in the ground, but one day I’d like to try.
Harvest parsley root’s leaves throughout the growing season, while the root is growing underground. However, do be mindful of how much of the tops you take. You may want to be selective in your harvests.
Parsley roots can be stored in the same conditions as carrots. In the fridge, they’ll keep for about a week if you wrap them in paper towel and place in a plastic bag.
Cooking and preserving root parsley
I find that parsley root tastes a bit like a parsnip. I’ve seen the flavor described as fresh and nutty, and sweeter than a parsnip. But it certainly smells like parsley when you pull one from the garden and start to trim the root.
I love roasting vegetables on the barbecue in the summer—beets, carrots, potatoes, turnips, and Hamburg parsley. So my easiest “recipe” is basically wash, trim the tubers, if necessary, trim into bite-sized pieces, place on foil or in a grill tray, drizzle or brush with olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper, roast. They’d probably also be delicious with melted butter. I like to trim some parsley root’s leaves to “season” my roasted veggies.
I also found an interesting recipe by Marcus Samuelsson for roasted root parsley that I’d like to try. You simply slice parsley root, sauté it in a saucepan in olive oil with a medley of other ingredients, including green beans. Finely chopped leaves are added in at the end.
I save the tops for my homemade broth I like to make. I simply put them into a freezer bag and save them until I’m ready to simmer a big pot of broth with vegetables and soup greens for an afternoon. The whole veggie also works well in hearty fall soups and stews.
Other root vegetables to grow
- Growing and harvesting beets
- Sowing turnip seeds
- How to grow carrots
- Planting seed potatoes
- Prepping and planting sweet potato slips
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