This is an absolute beast of a parsnip that lives up to it’s name. An RHS award winning parsnip at the time of publishing the roots when mature can get to a good 10 cm across and might win you a prize in the biggest parsnip competition.
In the kitchen:
This is a family sized parsnip. One parsnip will happily serve 4 alongside roast potatoes. Personally I don’t think it tastes anything special as I suspect it has been grown for exhibiting, rather than flavour. You will probably have to cut out the central core which is large and can be a bit tough. I like parsnips best roasted, although you can make a mash from them.
Yield and plant health:
Huge parsnips which have to be seen to be believed. I did find that the sizes were a little erratic and they forked heavily on my clay even though it had not had compost applied and because of their length were hard to get out of the clay. For exhibition use, growing in sand filled drain pipes would produce a much more attractive root.
They are supposedly canker resistant although the ones I grew this year showed some signs of potential canker and also splitting.
Like many parsnips germination time was lengthy (about 25 days) and a bit erratic. Like all parsnips you must buy fresh seed each year.
Grow again? Probably not. It’s just too big for every day use and The Student offers vastly superior flavour.
How to Grow
Sow in March/April in a sunny position with light stone free soil which has not been manured recently. If growing in heavy clay soil focus on varieties good for baby parsnips.
Parsnips are notoriously slow to germinate so either sow three seeds together, 1.5 cm deep together, 15 cm apart in rows 30cm apart. You can sow raddish in the gaps which will help mark the row and enable you to remove weeds easily. Keep soil moist, especially if we have a hot dry spring. It can take at least 20 days to germinate. When seedlings have their first true leaves, thin to one per station.
Alternatively try pre chitting which involves laying the seeds on damp kitchen roll, cover with more damp kitchen roll and store in a warm place, in a sealed plastic bag or box. After a week start checking daily to see if you can see a tiny shoot starting to emerge. When you do get ready to transplant in to their final positions ASAP before the root gets too big. Tweezers are the best way to pick the seeds up to stop you damaging the shoot. Keep soil moist until you see the shoots coming up through the soil.
Weed carefully around the plants until they are established at which point their foliage should keep weeds down.
Once parsnips are established they should not need watering often unless conditions are very dry. A weekly soak during the summer should be sufficient but more often can be required if the ground is dry. Allowing parsnips to dry out can cause splitting. You do not need to fertilise parsnips.
Parsnips suffer from three main issues, spitting caused by irregular watering, forking i.e. growing into funny shapes caused by pockets of nutrients, usually left by manure or compose which the parsnip then seeks out and divides. More serious is canker which is a rot that sets in from the top of the parsnip and can be caused by mechanical damage, drought or excessively rich soils. If canker is a problem grow resistant varieties. Less common is damage from carrot root fly.