By Harold McGee
Pastinaca sativa, along with its aromatic taproot, is native to Eurasia, was known to the Greeks and Romans, and like the turnip was an important staple food before the introduction of the potato. The version known to us today was developed in the Middle Ages. The parsnip accumulates more starch than the carrot, but converts it to sugars when exposed to cold temperatures; so winter roots are sweeter than autumn roots, and before sugar became cheap were used to make cakes and jams in Britain. Its pale, somewhat dry tissue softens faster during cooking than either the potato’s or carrot’s.