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Answering OUR Questions: Parsnip Greens

May 17, 2013

This week we are flippin’ the script.  This time you answered OUR question.  And might we say, you are some very clever readers!

The following question WE asked via Facebook a few weeks ago and the answers y’all came up with!  THANK YOU!  You probably saved us some stomach upset.  😉

Q. I bought some beautiful parsnips at the Farmer’s Market. I mean BEAUTIFUL–fragrant and sweet! MMMMMMMmmmmmmmmm! They came with lots of greens attached. Was wondering….are the greens edible like beet greens? Anyone know? I googled it. Some people said they are delicious and they eat them all the time and juice them even.  Some people said they are horribly toxic and to never ever eat them under any circumstances. So…..that means that my chickens will probably get them because I’m just not sure! Anyone know the answer?

Photo source.

Photo source.

A. Karen said, “They are poisonous! The leaves and stems are more poisonous the older the parsnips are. If you have nice, tender, small-rooted parsnips the tops probably won’t harm you even if you eat them… but it’s not worth the risk. That, incidentally, is why they’re usually sold with tops removed.”

Summer said, “While the root of the parsnip is edible, handling the shoots and leaves of the plant requires caution as the sap is toxic. (Wikipedia)”

Melissa (food science major) said, “The shoots do have a chemical in their sap that can cause a non-allergic reaction on the skin in the presence of UV. I’ll have to do more research to find out if there are consequences for ingesting it, but for now, I’d say not to.”

Meghan (chemical engineer with toxicology and food science minors) said, “I wouldn’t eat the tops. They do have a chemical that can cause reactions to skin, and my guess is it probably wouldn’t make your stomach feel very good either. If you decide to feed them to your chickens, they probably won’t have a problem with them. However, if they are laying hens, the chemical may effect the egg flavor (especially if the hen eats exclusively from around the tops). I hope that helps.”

Melissa and Meghan were good enough to send along some links for us to read.  The conclusion was that in the presence of UV they are definitely irritating to the skin, causing a chemical burn.  They contain furanocoumarin, a photosensitive chemical.  Meaning they are only toxic in the presence of UV rays.  But, there was nothing conclusive we could find that ingesting them was toxic or safe.  After all, there are no UV rays in my stomach.   (I am wondering if it’s similar to Sumac, which is very irritating to skin and you wouldn’t want to handle it.  However, it’s a super delicious spice, especially in a summer Fattoush salad!)  However, we erred on the side of caution and fed them to the kitchens!  So, they didn’t really go to waste!  And we hate anything edible going to waste.

Beet greens and stalks on the other hand are amazing delicious!  This weekend we had a salad with mixed greens from the garden and beet greens, blue cheese, warm sliced golden beets in a light olive oil balsamic dressing.  Topped with dried cranberries and a sprinkling of hemp seeds.  Everyone wanted seconds!

(Linked to From The Farm, Best Posts Of The WeekFoodie Friends FridaySmall Footprint FridaysCreative HomeAcre Hop and Backyard Farming Connection Hop)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 19, 2013 9:16 am

    This is great information! Thanks for sharing on Foodie Friends Friday!

  2. Joan permalink
    September 18, 2013 9:03 am

    I purchased parsnips without the leaves and stems for the first time ever. I peeled, tried a small raw bite then cooked and ate with a meal. I have had hives for three days since I peeled them. Have any ideas?

    • September 18, 2013 9:27 am

      Joan, that sounds awful! Although rare, it is possible that you had an allergic reaction to the parnsips. You might want to follow up with a doctor if your condition gets worse or you are too uncomfortable.

  3. January 25, 2014 10:22 am

    For what it’s worth I’ve eaten the tops from a pretty mature root, I’d say about 12″ tall green leaves in a bundle about the size of a closed hand–think holding a package of uncooked spaghetti–without any problems or noticeable side effects. I cut them into 1″ ribbons (leafy tops) and shoots (stalks) and then steamed them for about 10 min, with a few minute final saute with other veggies and the roots. No taste or health or allergy issues.

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