Monday, June 27, 2011

Of wild parsnips and trying to beat the rain..

 This is my husband.... trying to beat the rain.

  The posts are from the old barn, which had a tree crash through it in the last big storm. As they are well over 100 years old (actually over 150), time has left them a bit twisted. The area is sloped, so what you can't see is that it is excavated. Meanwhile he is battling the best he can to plumb up the posts and get the concrete in before it rains tomorrow. It is threatening to rain right now, but so far so good..

 See that tall spracky plant with yellow flowers? Here's another picture of it.. wild parsnip.
  Wild parsnip, poison parsnip.. it has a lot of nicknames, but it is regular old parsnips that escaped cultivation. You do NOT want to get the sap from this on your skin. The sap reacts to sunlight and the results are chemical burns (phytophotodermatitis). The burns turn into massive blisters. I've been nailed by jellyfish before, and while that does send up impressive blisters.. parsnip takes the cake.

 They are flowering right now (obviously) and in about a month or so the seeds should be ready to collect. Oh yes.. I will be collecting them. Parsnip seed is notoriously short lived so getting the most fresh seed is important if you like them as much as I do. 

 Parsnip is one that needs it's own patch.. away from kids and critters that might mistakenly mess around with it. The first year or two it makes a rosette, and when the time is right it blooms. It has the best flavor after extended exposure to a freeze. One to harvest in the winter or spring.. the root converts starch to sugar. Make sure you are wearing long sleeves, pants, and gloves. The roots are fine, but the plant (stems, leaves, flowers).. that's the risky part.

 Now here's to hoping the rain holds out just a little while longer....


  1. I have a bunch of parsnips. I had no idea about the sap. They did not get all that big last year, which was the first year I planted them, but this year they are every bit as big the one you pictured.

    I planted them because somehow I had the seeds, but we really liked them.

    My carrots and radishes are also doing well.

    They are in with our radishes that the deer like to eat up, so they are caged for their own protection.

  2. Be cautious with that sap!! My husband has had a few run-ins and it scars something nasty. Hurts like crazy too.

    The first year they build up the reserves and then the second they pull energy from the root to flower. So ideally.. harvest 1st year plantings after the frost gets them good. Deep rich soil helps them build up a good root, but needs good drainage too. Otherwise they'll fork and get all wonky. Top dressing with compost helps.. root development is the "P" in N-P-K (Phosphorus).