Pastinaca sativa - L.

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves; Root; Seed.

Edible Uses: Condiment.

Root - raw or cooked. When well grown, the cooked root has a very tender texture, though it is rather chewy raw. It is best harvested after there have been some autumn frosts because it will have developed a sweeter flavour. The root is delicious baked, it can also be used in soups etc and can be added to cakes, pies and puddings. Leaves and young shoots - cooked with other greens as a vegetable or added to soups etc. Used in early spring. The seed is used as a condiment. Similar in taste to dill.

Medicinal Uses

Poultice; Women's complaints.

A tea made from the roots has been used in the treatment of women's complaints. A poultice of the roots has been applied to inflammations and sores. The root contains xanthotoxin, which is used in the treatment of psoriasis and vitiligo. Xanthotoxin is the substance that causes photosensitivity (see note above on toxicity).

Other Uses

Insecticide; Repellent.

The leaves and roots are used to make an insect spray. Roughly chop the leaves and roots, put them in a basin with enough water to cover, leave them overnight then strain and use as an insecticide against aphids and red spider mite.

Cultivation details

Succeeds in most ordinary well-drained soils. Requires an open situation. Prefers a deep rich soil that is not too stiff. The roots are very frost hardy and can be left in the ground to be harvested as required, though they can also be lifted in the autumn and stored for a few months. The flowers are very attractive to hover flies and predatory wasps. Plants have very few insect pests, though they are sometimes attacked by carrot root fly. Growing onions with the parsnips can reduce the damage. Roots of the wild form can quite quickly be increased in size by selective breeding and good cultivation, it is possible to obtain good sized roots in only 6 years.


Seed - sow from late winter to late spring in situ. Seed can be slow to germinate, especially from the earlier sowings, it is best to mark the rows by sowing a few radishes with the parsnips. The seed has a short viability, very few will still be viable 15 months after harvesting.