While we’re on the subject of wild vegetables (see yesterday’s Wild carrot post), I must mention the other umbellifer that’s currently in full bloom, the Wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa). Unlike the Wild carrot, the root of the Wild parsnip is, in fact, edible, though it’s described as hard and wiry so doesn’t sound worth the bother to me. I’ve also read that the sap of the plants can cause severe rashes and burns in some people so handling doesn’t seem advisable. And, anyway, who would want to deprive the insects of their tasty feast or spoil the glorious sight of a field of parsnip in full bloom?
The Wild parsnip is the ancestor of the cultivated parsnip, which is one of my favourite winter vegetables – roasted, in soup, stir-fried, yum! – and its culinary use probably dates from the early Middle Ages. The wild variety can be found growing, often in large groupings, on the chalky grasslands of southern England and Wales. In Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, one particular field is like a forest of yellow, some plants taller than my 168cm, and you can smell the scent of parsnips as you walk along the tracks through the field. Delicious!