Difference between giant hogweed and queen anne’s lace

Department of Environmental Conservation

Giant Hogweed Identification

If you suspect you may have found giant hogweed you should take photos, note the location, and report the site to NYS DEC via Email, or at the Giant Hogweed Information Line: 1-845-256-3111.

Giant hogweed is often confused for cow parsnip, and other similar looking plants – compare some common lookalikes that get mistaken for giant hogweed below.

Characteristics of the Adult Giant Hogweed Plant

White flowers with 50-150 flower rays clustered into an umbrella shaped flower cluster up to 2.5 feet across

Between 7 and 14 feet tall (depending upon growth stage)

Huge leaves, incised and deeply lobed up to 5 feet across

Stems are green with extensive purple splotches and prominent coarse white hairs. Stems are also hollow, ridged, 2-4 inches in diameter, and have a thick circle of hairs at base of leaf stalk

Seeds are dry, flattened, and oval. Approximately 3/8 inch long and tan with brown lines (oil tubes) extending 3/4 of the seed length that widen at ends

Many plants are often misidentified as giant hogweed – the most common plant being cow parsnip. Please thoroughly look through the charts below to see the major differences between giant hogweed and cow parsnip, angelica, wild parsnip, Queen Anne’s lace, and poison hemlock.

Giant Hogweed and Common Lookalikes

Plant Flower Leaf Stem
Giant Hogweed
7-14 feet tall
This plant can cause burns.
Do not touch.
White umbrella-shaped flower clusters
up to 2.5 feet wide. 50+ rays per cluster.
Flowers late June – mid July
Compound, lobed, deeply incised,
up to 5 feet wide
Green with purple splotches and course
white hairs – thick circle of hairs at base of
leaf stalk, 2-4 inches in diameter.
Cow Parsnip
5 to 8 feet tall
This plant may cause burns.
White flat-topped flower clusters no longer
than one foot wide. 15-30 rays per cluster.
Flowers late May – Late June
Compound, less incised than hogweed,
between 2 – 2.5 feet wide
Green and rigid with fine white hairs
1-2 inches in diameter.
Angelica
4 to 9 feet tall
This plant may cause burns.
Softball-sized and shaped clusters,
greenish-white or white
Flowers mid May – mid June
Compound leaves that may extend
up to 2 feet wide
Smooth, waxy purple, 1 to 2.5 inches
in diameter (no hairs or bristles)
Wild Parsnip
Up to 5 feet tall
Native of Eurasia
This plant can cause burns.
Do not touch.
Single flower stalk with flat-topped
umbel of yellow flower clusters
Flowers late May – early July
Compound, pinnate, 5 to 15 toothed
leaflets, variably lobed, yellowish-green
Yellowish-green with full length
grooves (no hairs or bristles)
Queen Anne’s Lace
1 to 3 feet tall
Native of Eurasia
Flat-topped umbel of white flower clusters,
2 to 4 inches wide. The central flower
cluster usually deep purple.
When fruiting, the umbel becomes
concave and resembles a “bird’s nest.”
Compound, pinnate, fern-like. Green, covered with bristly hairs.
Poison Hemlock
4 to 9 feet tall
Native of Eurasia
All parts of this plant are very poisonous.
DO NOT INGEST
Small and white arranged in numerous
flat-topped clusters on all branches
Flowers late May – late June
Bright green, small and fern-like,
may appear glossy
Smooth and waxy stem with purple
blotches, 1 to 2 inches in diameter
(no hairs or bristles)

Maryland Grows

Poison hemlock can be mistaken for giant hogweed

Q: I think I might have giant hogweed on my property, or maybe it is poison hemlock. How can I tell for sure?

A: Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) was found recently in Clarke County, Virginia, and it has raised awareness and concern about the plant – and rightfully so. The plant produces toxic sap that can cause very severe skin inflammation. We have received a lot of questions about it lately.

Poison hemlock Photo: E. Nibali

What you have here is NOT giant hogweed. It is poison hemlock (Conium maculatum), which is much more common. The ferny foliage makes it possible to distinguish it from giant hogweed.

All parts of poison hemlock are toxic too. If you’re removing the plant from your landscape, treat it like you would poison ivy. Wear gloves and a long-sleeved shirt when you handle it. If you’re mowing the plants, wear a face mask as well.

With regard to concerns about giant hogweed, be aware that there are several other plants that look very similar to it. In addition to poison hemlock, there is common cow-parsnip, angelica, wild parsnip, wild chervil, Queen Anne’s lace, and golden Alexanders. Some of these plants also contain toxins, but none are as potent as giant hogweed.

In Maryland, invasive giant hogweed has been found in Garrett, Baltimore, and Harford Counties, where it has been controlled. It is possible to find giant hogweed elsewhere in the state, but the chances are much greater that you will encounter one of the look-alike plants.

If you think you see giant hogweed, avoid touching it. Take photos (particularly of the flowers and stems, if possible) and look at this identification guide online. If you are still unsure about the plant’s identity, send clear digital photos to our Ask an Expert service and we will help you.

Giant hogweed is a federally regulated noxious weed. Suspected sightings of it will be reported to the Maryland Department of Agriculture Plant Protection Division.

Additional Resources

  • Toxic Plant Profile: Hemlock | University of Maryland Extension
  • Giant Hogweed | University of Maryland Extension
  • Giant Hogweed Detected in Virginia | Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
  • Giant Hogweed | New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

By Christa K. Carignan, Coordinator, University of Maryland Extension Home & Garden Information Center

Have a plant or pest question? University of Maryland Extension’s experts have answers! Send your questions and photos to Ask an Expert.

Plants that may be Mistaken for Giant Hogweed

Cow Parsnip (Heracleum maximum)

  • leaves broader and less serrated (toothed) than giant hogweed
  • leaves are not shiny, has large leaf sheaths
  • stems are usually green but lower portions can be purple but markings are not blotches, steaks or spots
  • flower stalks and stems have soft hairs, not stiff hairs like giant hogweed
  • usually blooms in July earlier than giant hogweed
  • the inflorescence is composed of many small white flowers in a flat umbel,
  • flower heads can be 20-30 cm in diameter, less than one quarter the size of giant hogweed
  • can cause phytophotodermatitis similar to giant hogweed

Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)

  • leaves pinnate and divided repeatedly having a feathery appearence
  • stems green with soft hairs, no purple
  • blooms June through August
  • inflorescence composed of many small white flowers in flat umbels no more than 10-15 cm in diameter
  • grows up to 1 m high

Elderberry (Sambucus spp.)

  • opposite, pinnate leaves, leaflets have serrated edges
  • stems woody, opposite branching
  • inflorescence composed of many small white flowers in terminal cymes that may be flat topped or not

Angelica (Angelica spp.)

  • compound leaves have dozens of small leaflets
  • stems may be smooth or hairy, green or reddish, has enlarged leaf sheaths
  • inflorescence is a large compound umbel composed of small white to greenish flowers
  • plants can grow to about 2 m high

Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa)

  • compound pinnate leaves, leaflets are lobed and/or serrated
  • stems are green with longitudinal ridges
  • inflorescence is an umbel of small yellow flowers
  • can grow to about 1.5 m
  • can cause phytophotodermatitis similar to giant hogweed but usually less severe

Cow Parsnip Information – What Does Cow Parsnip Look Like

Cow parsnip is an elegant blooming perennial native to the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. It is common in forested areas as well as grasslands, shrub lands, meadows, alpine regions and even riparian habitats. This vigorous plant is an important forage species for numerous animals. What does cow parsnip look like? Read on for more cow parsnip information and a guide to identifying the species.

What Does Cow Parsnip Look Like?

Cow parsnip (Heracleum lanatum) is easy to confuse with several other plants in the carrot family. Some of these plants can actually be dangerous, so identification is extremely important. What is cow parsnip? It is an herbaceous, flowering wild plant that develops umbels of tiny white flowers in a cloud atop tall stems. The plants that are similar also develop the same umbels and have similar form. Queen Anne’s lace, water hemlock, poison hemlock and giant hogweed all bear the same flower type and have similar feathery leaves.

Cow parsnip is a flowering dicot that can grow up to 10 feet in height. It is characterized by large 1 to 1 ½ foot across serrated, palmate leaves. The stems are erect, stout and have small thorn-like protuberances. The flowers are a creamy white, lacy flat-topped cluster that may grow up to a foot in diameter. This smaller flower size is one key to ruling out the poisonous giant hogweed, which has 2-foot wide blooms and can grow up to 20 feet tall. Cow parsnip growing conditions are similar to this plant, but its cousins, Queen Anne’s lace and poison hemlock, prefer drier locations and water hemlock is a riparian plant.

Cow Parsnip Information

Cow parsnip’s relatives are all poisonous to one degree or another. Can you eat cow parsnip? It is not toxic, but the juice can cause contact dermatitis in sensitive individuals. Washing the affected area and avoiding sunlight for a few days can reduce irritation.

The plant is eaten by deer, elk, mooseand livestock. In fact, it is even planted as forage. Native Americans ate the inside of the stem and boiled the roots to extract the sugar. The plant is also known as Indian parsley or Indian rhubarb. By contrast, its relatives poison hemlock and water hemlock are deadly and giant hogweed is extremely toxic to skin, causing large weeping, painful blisters. Queen Anne’s lace’s sap is less toxic but can cause skin irritation.

Cow Parsnip Growing Conditions

Differentiating the 5 species can be done by the sizes of the plants and their flowers but also by the areas in which they grow. Cow parsnip may be found in United States Department of Agriculture zones 3 to 9. It originated in Europe but naturalized in the United States and across Canada.

It grows best in moist, shady locations but also thrives in open, drier areas. The plant prefers loam or sandy loam with good drainage. Cow parsnip may be found as an understory species but also in sub-arctic alpine zones.

This lovely plant is important in many ecosystems and is an attractive wildflower to grow in a perennial garden.

Cow Parsnip Poisoning in Dogs

The cow parsnip is a large perennial related to the carrot, with an umbrella-type group of small, white flowers which can grow up to eight feet tall. It is a native wildflower throughout North America and Canada, but many consider it a weed. Cow parsnip may be found growing on roadsides, in forests, fields and along river edges.

The furanocoumarins in the cow parsnip are a natural insect repellant and some Native American tribes used to rub the flowers on their skin to keep bugs away. In fact, some tribes used cow parsnip as food, but that has not been done for years due to the toxicity. Experts now know that the toxins in the cow parsnip can interact with DNA to cause mutagenic and carcinogenic changes. In addition, once your dog has been affected by phytophotodermatitis, a condition called hyperpigmentation can occur if you do not keep the skin covered. The inflammation caused by the furanocoumarins can be bad enough to cause necrosis, killing the tissues and may lead to amputation.

Cow parsnip poisoning is caused by furanocoumarins in the foliage of Heracleum maximum, which can produce phytophotodermatitis or photosensitivity if your dog eats the plant or if the sap is absorbed through the skin. In addition, exposure to cow parsnip can also cause ocular damage leading to permanent blindness. The furanocoumarins are to blame for the rash and blisters of dermatitis that can present as just a mild redness or severe enough to cause necrotic dermatitis with extreme inflammation. In rare cases, the swelling can get so bad that it may lead to amputation of a limb with necrosis. The burning and blistering may not show up until days later if your dog has not been out in the sun since eating the cow parsnip because it takes sunlight to trigger the reaction that causes it. Cow parsnip can also cause intestinal irritation with nausea and vomiting.

“It makes ye go blind!” “It can only die from a silver nail through the root!” “Eat wild parsnip? Never! There’s only poison parsnip!” “It’s all over the roads and trails, storm the woods! kill it with fiyaaaah!”

These are pretty much the sayings and overall feeling conveyed by the well intended but torch-wielding public about cow parsnip, a plant that’s become one of my favorite things to pick, eat and to serve to guests throughout the year. It took a year or two for me to really understand it’s seasonal changes, forms and edible parts, but after I studied it (my local species is Heracleum lanatum) it became a work horse for me.

Over the year, it evolves and changes shape from herb to vegetable, a baby vegetable to cooking green, beautiful flower blossom to flowers, and finally a spice (the seeds) all parts that can be eaten, and enjoyed. It’s the poster child for the myriad of uses some wild foods can have, so now every year I look forward to foraging the cow parsnip in all it’s forms throughout the seasons.

This special plant has a tough road ahead of it though. Like a lot of others in the family of Apiaceae, the family parsley and carrots are in, it’s subjected every year to a lot of demonizing. The fear and occasional hatred of it and some of it’s relatives can be traced to a couple different things in my opinion:

Why Is Cow Parsnip Demonized?

1. It’s casual resemblance to hemlock (I don’t think they look like each other at all)
2. The fact that it’s sap can cause dermatitus if it hits the skin and is exposed to sunlight (the culprit are compounds called furanocoumarins)
3. It’s close cousin wild parsnip is labeled as a noxious weed in Minnesota, but most people will lump cow parsnip in with it due to the name
4. It’s close relation to the more widely demonized giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) whose sap is said to be more aggressively dermatitis-inducing

Facts

1. Common garden parsnip also has sap that’s a phototoxin, and people eat it all the time (Source, Forager’s Harvest)
2. The plant has been used (and still is although less commonly) by nearly all indigenous people of North America as a food (Source)
3. Indigenous people have actually used it as a dermatological aid, despite it’s phototoxin properties (Source)
4. Indigenous people generally consumed the plant raw in the Spring as well as cooked, and after preservation by drying or holding under lard for the cold season (Source)

Harvesting & Safety

The phototoxin compounds are said to react with sweat, and sun. Given that, I generally cut them with a scissors and avoid touching any of the sap. I generally harvest this plant without using gloves, but I’ve heard reports that some people can be more succeptable to the furanocoumarins than others, similar to poison ivy, until you understand how the sap can affect you, I’d advice you to wear gloves.

As soon as the shoot or whatever part of the plant I’m harvesting is cut, it goes into a paper grocery bag, then straight to a sink full of cold water to refresh them when I get home, especially if I’m picking them in the heat of the sun. After the shoots or leaves are harvested and washed, I pack them tightly in in a plastic or paper bag, with a damp towel to help them not dry out, and refrigerate.

You Lie, My Cow Parsnip is Bitter!

I’ve heard a few accounts of this, both from reputable sources. Both sources were also from California. I’m speculating, but I think bitterness in this plant could be from differences in species being picked. Another hunter I know that cooks them every year in Britain suggested that extended exposure to sunlight can concentrate compounds in the plant, similar to how watercress can get spicier from Spring to Summer. If anyone has further evidence or information on this I’d love to hear it.

Cow Parsnip’s Edible Parts

There’s plenty to enjoy on this plant as it grows and evolves throughout the year but you need to understand how to use it. Think of cow parsnip as half herb-half vegetable. To be used as a vegetable it needs to be harvested young.

Young Shoots

Early to Mid-Spring. The first, and most tender cow parsnip you will eat. The young shoots when just coming out of the ground are almost like a small leafy vegetable. I like to wilt them in a little butter or fat, and toss with pasta or a few other spring vegetables for a medley.

Very, very young shoots. You can let them grow more than this but eating them super young is fun.

Young Leaves and Stalks

Early to Mid-Summer. This is the most common stage for eating, and you’ll be able to collect the most volume from a patch of plants at this age. Separate the leaves and stalks, and peel if you want. I like to slice the stalks and cook as I would celery, then toss the leaves in to wilt in a dish at the end.

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Flower Blossoms

An Italian specialty. These are the most difficult part of the plant to catch, but if you can get them they can be collected in quantity. One trip I took at the right time in 2016 gave me hundreds and kept the deep fryer filled for weeks. The flower buds will keep in the fridge for weeks at least, packed in a plastic bag with some holes for breathing and a damp cloth. Deep fry them, and I guarantee you will look for them every year.

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Flowers

After the blossoms open, the flowers will show. Don’t expect to make a meal out of them, but they add good great flavor and look to salads and can be used to make infusions into things like alcohol or vinegar. I haven’t tried drying them yet.

At this stage, the only part you’ll want to eat is the flowers of the plant. I think it’s so pretty at this age.

Seeds

The last part of the plant that can be harvested. The seeds will naturally dry in the sun, and can be harvested without using gloves. Pick the seeds, then dehydrate, freeze to sterilize, then store. The flavor of the seeds is incredible, one of the strongest wild herb/type seasonings I’ve ever tasted. It will over power cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom. I like to use them with spicy dishes, as well as in fruit and sweet and sour sauces.

Other related plants have seeds that can be used similarly. Angelica seeds are similar in how they grow, but the flavor is much more musky and muted, common wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) seeds are nearly identical to cow parsnip seeds in flavor, but slightly smaller in size.

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General Cooking

As I mentioned, Indigenous people would often eat the peeled stalks raw. Generally they were peeled before eating. Know that eating the stalks raw seems to have been like a treat and there is evidence for over-indulgence of the raw plant causing indigestion. Milkweed can do the same thing, from my experience. Taking this into account, I’ll tell you that 100% of the time I’ve served cow parsnip to guests at a restaurant or in a home setting it has been cooked, and at most an ounce or two per serving. I have never had anyone get gastro-intestinal issues from serving it cooked.

Young and Tender

It’s important to look at the age of the plant that you’re going to eat Like with so many other things you can forage, younger plants will be the best to eat, older plants can be stringy, become bitter, or have their flavor change as they age.

Just because a plant is getting older doesn’t mean you can’t eat it though. As the plant continues to grow, new, young edible parts can form, my favorite being the flower blossoms. I really find inspiration from indigenous methods too: Are the stalks a little older? Try to peel some of the stalks if you find them tough, or make sure they’re cut into bite-sized pieces. You’ll be surprised what a difference a couple knife cuts can make.

Pro tip: use cow parsnip like an herb

As far as wild greens and vegetables go, cow parsnip does have a stronger flavor than many. To ensure you enjoy what you make with this plant, here’s a helpful tip: think of adding cow parsnip to a dish like you would add an herb. Would you cook a pound of basil with bacon and onions and eat it? No, and I won’t with cow parsnip. Would you tear some leaves of basil and cook them in a salad of wilted lentils with bacon and onions? Absolutely, and the same goes for the stems and the leaves.

Anyone else know of indigenous methods or evidence involving the use of this plant? I’d love to hear it.

Cow parsnip seed makes a fantastic sweet and sour fruit based jam, see my recipe for that here.

Roasted Parsnips

April 14, 2018

Roasted Parsnips are simple to make and incredibly delicious as a vegetable side to any dinner. They have a natural sweetness that caramelizes in the oven for a delicious flavor.

I don’t understand how parsnips haven’t gotten their moment of trendiness and hype in the food world.

I mean, if brussels sprouts has already had its moment, why not parsnips?

Parsnips are one of the most underrated vegetables and one of my favorites. They’re SO good.

Even my toddler devours parsnips. That’s saying something.

Today I’m sharing what I think is the best way to prepare them: roasted in a hot oven until they’re golden brown, caramelized, sweet, and tender, all while intensifying the natural (and unique!) flavor of parsnips.

What are parsnips?

Parsnips are a root vegetable in the carrot family. They look like fatter, white carrots.

Some people describe the taste of parsnips as like a spicy carrot, but I don’t view them this way.

Parsnips are sweeter than carrots, with a nutty and earthy flavor.

I also wouldn’t describe parsnips as spicy, but rather as “spiced.” As if the vegetable had been seasoned with a combination of warm spices like cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, etc. The flavor is SO delicious.

How to pick the best parsnips:

Smaller parsnips tend to be better for a few reasons.

  1. The bigger the parsnip, the tougher the outer skin gets. The parsnips below definitely have to be peeled. Sometimes the smaller, younger parsnips you can get away with not peeling.
  2. The bigger the parsnip, the more fibrous and larger the inner core is. The really huge ones, you may have to cut the inner core out for a more pleasant eating experience. Smaller parsnips often have a better texture.
  3. Smaller parsnips also tend to have better flavor. This is true of a lot of vegetables.

So if you can help it, try to pick smaller parsnips.

My store sells them pre-packaged in bags, so I usually don’t have much choice, but I look among the bags and try to select smaller ones from there.

Do you have to peel parsnips?

The big ones, yes. The skin is usually fairly tough and woody.

If you have some smaller, younger parsnips, you may be able to leave the skin on.

How to Cut Parsnips

Parsnips look annoying to cut into even pieces because the size usually varies hugely from top to bottom, but it’s actually pretty easy.

I like to cut the parsnips into matchsticks. Cut each parsnip in half at the middle, to split the larger diameter top part from the thinner bottom part.

Then you can cut the bottom smaller part in half, and the larger tops into thirds or quarters so everything is about the same size and cooks evenly.

You can also cut parsnips into coins, but toward the larger tops of the parsnip, you’ll have to cut them into half-moons or even quarters because it’s so much bigger than the thin bottoms of the parsnip.

Once you have the parsnip matchsticks, place them in a big bowl and toss with oil, salt, and pepper:

Distribute them in a single layer on a baking sheet:

They should ideally have a little bit of room in the sides so the steam can escape while cooking and the parsnips can brown.

Roast for about 30 minutes, tossing once throughout, until the parsnips are caramelized and golden brown on the edges, and tender in the middle:

Roasted Cauliflower is another one of my favorite simple veggie sides. Like these parsnips, they are naturally paleo, gluten free, whole30, and suited to toddler eating too. Enjoy!

Roasted Parsnips Tips, Tricks, and FAQs:

Can roasted parsnips be frozen? Yes, since they’ve already been cooked, they freeze well for up to 1 month.

How to store roasted parsnips: These will keep well in the fridge for 3 days. Just microwave them to reheat, or heat them up in the oven.

Can you roast parsnips in advance? Yes, these re-heat well. Toss in another tbsp of olive oil, then heat in a dish in a 350F oven for about 10 minutes, or until warmed through.

What other flavors can you add to roasted parsnips? For a sweeter flavor, add 1-2 tbsp of maple syrup, and ground spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and allspice. You can get more flavor ideas from The Flavor Bible, one of my favorite books!

Pin 5 from 14 votes Roasted Parsnips are simple to make and incredibly delicious as a vegetable side to any dinner. They have a natural sweetness that caramelizes in the oven for a delicious flavor. Course Side Dish Cuisine American Keyword parsnips, roasted parsnips Prep Time 15 minutes Cook Time 30 minutes Total Time 45 minutes Servings 6 Calories 230kcal

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs parsnips
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 425F.
  • Peel the parsnips, then cut into evenly sized matchsticks.
  • Place in a large bowl and toss with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  • Evenly distribute the parsnips on a baking sheet in a single layer, making sure they have a little room on the sides to brown and caramelize.
  • Roast for about 20-25 minutes, until the parsnips are starting to turn golden brown on the edges. Toss the parsnips to redistribute, then roast for another 10-15 minutes, until tender and golden.
  • Serve warm and enjoy!

Notes

Note on cooking times: The exact time varies depending on how big the matchsticks are, so make sure to check on them once in a while to see if they’ve become caramelized and fork tender. That’s when you know they’re done.

Nutrition

Calories: 230kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 180mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 11g

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Meet the Veggies: Parsnips 101

Parsnips, meet everybody. Everybody, say “Hi, parsnips.”

“Hi, parsnips.”

Let me tell you a little bit about my little friend, here.

How do they taste?

A raw parsnip tastes like a cross between a carrot and a potato, and smell a little bit like fresh parsley. There’s a hint of sweet to it when raw, but there’s also a comparable bitterness, thanks to the skin.

How do I choose good ones?

Look for firmness, bright color and . You want to avoid parsnips with soft, mushy parts to them. Parsnips tend to have woody tops; you don’t want to choose one where the top looks molded instead of tree-like.

If your parsnip has roots growing off the sides and bottom, don’t be afraid. They’re just roots. It is a root vegetable, after all. You can cut them off, and go right back to work.

As an aside, if a parsnip you’ve purchased starts to soften in some spots, you can just cut that chunk off/out, and eat the unsoftened parts.

How do I store them after I’ve bought them?

Parsnips – like most vegetables – shouldn’t be cleaned before they’re cooked. Since they’re root veggies, they don’t require refrigeration. Once you do wash them, go right into cooking

What goes well with parsnips?

Most root vegetables are interchangeable. So, just like you can make potato chips, french fries, home fries, hash browns, potatoes au gratin, roasting potatoes under your chicken and the like… you can do the same for parsnips.

Pomegranate, parsnip and parsley quinoa.

You can also grate them – like above – and use them in your salad, paired with a nice fruit. Something like pomegranates or oranges. The sweet in the juicy fruit would cut the inherent bitterness in raw parsnips… or maybe you like that sort of thing. Hey. Do your thing.

Can you get rid of that outer skin? Of course. A regular-grade vegetable peeler will do the trick. Take your parsnip by the tip, stand it up on its root, tilt it diagonally, and then quickly scrape off the skin with your peeler in short strokes. This way, you don’t break your peeler and also don’t cut your fingers.

How do I cook these parsnips I bought for the boot camp?

A quick and simple way to do it, for now, is to simply par-cook them.

Cast Iron Parsnips

Chop three parsnips thinly, and heat up your skillet. Place a cup of water in your skillet, and bring it to a boil on medium-high heat. Bite one of your raw parsnip slices. You’ll need to use this for a gauge.

Drop your parsnips into the boiling water. They should not be covered in water. You’re only using the water to soften them up, not to cook them through. The steam from the water makes them easier to chew, and helps boil out some of the bitterness. Add a pinch of salt, and a quarter-teaspoon of black pepper across the entire skillet. Cover your skillet with a lid.

Check on it every minute or so, to make sure that your water hasn’t burned out yet. Bite your parsnip: is it still hardened? If so, then you may want to add water, in 1/4 cup increments, to let the steam cook the parsnips through. Has it softened? Yes? Please proceed, governor.

Once the water has boiled out and your parsnips have softened a bit – you don’t want them to be soggy, but you want them to at least soften more towards that core than anything else – you’ll add in about two tablespoons of organic canola oil, and stir continuously.

Here, you’ll add a teaspoon of rosemary (in the photographs, I use dried rosemary, not ground; for ground rosemary, I’d say you might use a half-teaspoon), and keep stirring your parsnip slices. You want to toss them every minute or two, so that they have some time to brown on the outside, but also have more time to cook towards the center.

When they look like this, take them off the heat and add a very generous pinch of parsley to the skillet, and toss.

Cast Iron Parsnips

Taste your parsnips. Could they benefit from another pinch of salt? If so, go for it. If not, scratch it.

Notice the lack of parsnips in this picture in comparison to the picture above it. I may or may not have done some extra taste testing.

What’s your favorite way to have parsnips? Any recipes to share?

Don’t get burned: Here’s how to identify toxic wild parsnip

This article was originally published on July 21, 2018.

Wild parsnip is an invasive species with toxic sap that can cause skin to burn horribly when exposed to sunlight.

If you don’t know how to recognize it, you could be in for a nasty surprise, as Regina man Mark Wilson discovered.

Wild parsnip leaves are twice as long as they are wide, broad, with teeth on the edge. One leaf will be divided into several leaflets. (Victor M. Vicente Selvas/Wikimedia Commons)

Because wild parsnip closely resembles other common, non-toxic plants like dill, tansy and Golden Alexander, the best way to recognize it is by its leaves.

All of the aforementioned plants have numerous stems with little yellow flowers but the wild parsnip’s leaves are distinctive.

Wild parsnip leaves are broad, twice as long as they are wide and teeth on the edge. The leaves are lower down on the plant.

Dill has long, narrow, feathery leaves, while tansy and Golden Alexander tend to be shorter. Both dill and wild parsnip grow to about one and a half metres in height.

The colour of the flower is slightly different as well, said Beryl Wait, the Saskatchewan Conservation Data Centre invasive species co-ordinator.

“Dill would probably be more diffuse and slightly yellow or green colour versus the wild parsnip which would be more of a yellow colour and the flowers a little bigger and prominent,” she said.

Edible root, poisonous sap

Wait said the wild parsnip is a root crop that people used to harvest for the root. It’s a relative of parsnip, in the carrot family.

The sap causes a chemical reaction on skin when exposed to the sun, resulting in weeping blisters and burns.

Wait said it’s best to avoid getting it on your skin in the first place by recognizing the plant or wearing long pants and shoes. If it does get on your skin, though, don’t expose it to direct sunlight.

“If you do encounter it, go into the shade or go into the house and wash off prior to exposing it to sunlight and instigating it to a chemical reaction,” Wait said.

Record and report

If you think you recognize it, take a good picture of it and send it to the Saskatchewan Conservation Data Centre or the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan, or use the iNaturalist mobile application to identify it.

“If it is wild parsnip, we want it to be reported… so it can be controlled,” Wait said.

There are hotspots around Ness Creek, Kipling, Weyburn, and along Highway 11 between Saskatoon and Prince Albert.

The Saskatchewan Conservation Data Centre also has an invasive species public map that shows where it has been reported. Choose “Wild Parsnip” from the “Common Name” dropdown menu and you can see the affected areas.

Giant Hogweed or Cow Parsnip?

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Cow Parsnip – Photo Wikipedia

Giant Hogweed (a.k.a. Heracleum Mantegazzianum, which sounds like the villain of a Roger Moore-era Bond film) is the dangerous invader from across the seas. The vile plant has stem hairs and leaves which contain a clear, highly toxic sap that can cause blisters, burns and external scarring. Internal scarring as well, if you’re feeling bold.

The plant was first introduced because it looks really neat in gardens— seriously. The recent concern is its apparent similarity to a native flora known as Cow Parsnip. While having a similar shape there are subtle differences. First the Hogweed has pointed leaves, like a thistle or dandelion, whereas the Cow Parsnip has softer, rounder edges like a maple leaf. Also while the parsnip reaches about head height, Giant Hogweed can grow to three or four meters tall.

One understands this is like saying there is a subtle difference between a chicken and an ostrich, but they are similar enough to have many confused. (Confused about the plants not the flightless birds.)

Vicki Moses, a long-time Sun Peaks resident and local expert on invasive species, who happened to grow up collecting and eating Cow Parsnip as a traditional food, filled us in on the more benign counterpart.

“It’s edible right up until it flowers and looks a bit like celery, but it can be poisonous later on.”

Moses is not concerned about Giant Hogweed in the area.

“No, I had to check out a dozen or so reports of this stuff locally and it was never the big stuff. I don’t think it can survive here.”

Moses is backed up by Emily Sonntag, the invasive plant management co-ordinator for the Cariboo Regional District.

“I know of no confirmed occurrences of Giant Hogweed in the Cariboo Chilcotin to date. All reports have been of the native plant Cow Parsnip.”

That being said, it still can’t hurt to keep a watchful eye for anything that’s roughly three times larger than it should be, be it Hogweed or otherwise. Any possible sightings of Giant Hogweed should be reported to the Invasive Species Council of British Columbia at 1-888-933-3722. Sightings of anything else far larger than normal should be reported to any local 1960’s sci-fi movie writer who will listen.

Identifying and getting rid of giant hogweed

If you must handle giant hogweed, protect yourself properly:

  • Cover all parts of your body with non-absorbent garments (synthetic and waterproof materials): pants, long-sleeved shirt, rubber gloves covering the wrists and forearms
  • Pay particular attention to the hems of your clothes: protect your wrists, ankles and neck
  • Protect your eyes and face with a visor

Battling giant hogweed

Plants growing in isolation or covering a small area of land

  • You can cut the root of young plants with a sharp round shovel. Start at the beginning of the spring and repeat every two weeks in order to weaken the plants
  • Repeat the cutting each year over several years in order to completely get rid of the plant
  • Use a tool that rotates and tills soil, such as a rototiller, to get rid of small plants growing in abundance
  • To limit regrowth, if the area has few obstacles, cover it with geotextile fabric once the plants have been eliminated and the clonal colony is minor

Mature plants or ones covering a large area

  • Cut about 15 cm from the ground
  • Repeat at least 2 or 3 times over the spring
  • Cut the root to a depth of about 20 cm under the soil surface. Use a sharp round shovel
  • Work the soil, turning it at a depth of about 24 cm, for example. This will limit regrowth of plants
  • Dry the cut plants
  • If the plants bear seeds, avoid spreading them
  • Destroy the umbels by placing them in securely closed, sturdy plastic bags. Leave bags in the sun for a least a week
  • Do not compost any part of the plant
  • To prevent giant hogweed from invading your land again, you can grow new plants in the area cleared. Preferably choose plants that are native to your area and grow quickly. Check with your local garden center

Chemical measures

  • The use of herbicides or chemical controls are solutions to be considered only as a last resort
  • If you plan to use chemical controls, consult an expert or a specialized company. This way, you avoid harming your health and the environment

After handling giant hogweed

  • Remove your clothing and take off your gloves by turning them inside out
  • Make sure that clothes worn during handling of plants do not come into contact with other clothes or objects in order not to contaminate them with sap
  • Wash your clothes in the washing machine before wearing them again
  • With water and soap, wash tools (shears or trimmers for example) that came into contact with the plant’s sap
  • Wash your hands and face with soap and water

Other precautions

Call Info-Santé 811:

  • If you think you have been in contact with giant hogweed
  • If you want more information on what to do in case you come into contact with giant hogweed

Contact your municipality or the Ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques at 1 800 561-1616:

  • For information about control or elimination procedures
  • To indicate the presence of giant hogweed

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