"Income-tax payers are always treated to the fine words which butter no parsnips...."
--H.W. Fowler, The King's English (1908)

The parsnip, children, I repeat,
Is simply an anemic beet.
Some people call the parsnip edible;
Myself, I find this claim incredible.

--Ogden Nash (1942)

"For pottage and puddings and custards and pies
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies;
We have pumpkin at morning and pumpkin at noon,
If it was not for pumpkin, we should be undone."
--American Folksong, circa 1630

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(Pastinaca Sativa)

No one, today, would believe that the parsnip reigned in Europe as Primum Vegetabilum until the 18th century, when potatoes nudged it out of front running--and into a nose dive.

It began life in northern Europe and parts of Asia--and was domesticated thousands of years ago. Greeks doted on them. Romans liked them as dessert and ate them in little cakes with fruit and honey. Tiberius imported them from France and Germany for his rarified concoctions on Capri.

In the Middle Ages, European babies sucked on parsnip roots as pacifiers--and their moms and dads ate them with preserved fishes and eels.

With the discovery of the New World, they were ultimately supplanted in popularity by the South American potato tuber--but they revenged themselves by traveling to the New World, where they were used by colonists in puddings, wine, bread, casseroles, stews, purees, and pies.

Today they're packaged as "soup vegetables"--looking like yellow carrots. They're marvelous and should be hunted down, hugged to the chest, and snuck home to the kitchen.