How To: Can You Eat Parsnips Raw?

Parsnips (Pastinaca sativa) can be prepared in various ways. But are they also to be eaten raw or are they poisonous in their raw state? You can read everything you need to know below.

  • Parsnip is a winter vegetable
  • can be eaten raw without hesitation
  • Raw consumption is healthier than cooked consumption
  • nevertheless conditionally poisonous


The parsnip belongs to the umbelliferae (Apiaceae) and is a winter vegetable. As such, it is in season between late October/early November and April. Mainly this vegetable is known by the root, which is used mainly for the special taste in soups. Eating them raw is not widespread in local areas. However, since it has the highest content of healthy ingredients in its raw state, eating it raw is even recommended. As soon as heat comes into play through cooking, for example, the content decreases slightly.

Parsnips conditionally poisonous

This umbellifer contains essential oils. For humans, these are harmless even when eaten raw. There are no restrictions on the amount.


However, some animals may react to the essential oils with symptoms of poisoning. In particular, young and old/sick dogs and cats usually react strongly to them, because their metabolism cannot process essential oils well.

The following poisoning symptoms can occur in animals:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • muscle tremors and cramps
  • disturbances of the movement sequences
  • high fever
  • possibly breathing problems
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Be careful when harvesting!

Those who grow parsnips themselves should be careful when harvesting the leaves. They contain the so-called furocoumarine, a kind of natural defense substance produced by the plants. It can cause skin irritation and even blistering and burn-like conditions in sensitive people. However, this only happens if UV light is directly applied to the skin after contact with plant sap. Since this cannot occur during consumption, the above-mentioned reactions inside the body are accordingly not to be expected.

Pastinaken ernten - Hand hält Pastinake

Tip: Harvest the leaves therefore best with gloves!

Raw edible plant parts

All parts of parsnips are edible raw, including the skin. Most of the vitamins are contained directly under the skin. Therefore, the roots should either not be peeled at all or only extremely thinly. The stems, like the leaves, can be chopped and used as a seasoning herb, also raw, spread over dishes and foods.

How raw parsnips taste

Those who eat the root vegetable raw experience a much milder flavor than when boiled, cooked or roasted. A nutty, slightly sweet note is easy to detect. If the winter vegetable is exposed to frost, it tastes even milder and sweeter. Nevertheless, the taste is spicier compared to carrots. The aroma of the leaves is reminiscent of parsley, but has a slight hint of fennel.

Pastinaken- und Petersilie-Blätter

Tip: To avoid confusion with parsley, also pay attention to the leaves. Both have pinnate leaves, but parsnip has one to two pinnate leaves and parsley has two to three pinnate leaves. In addition, parsnip leaves are always smooth, smell faintly of fennel, and reach stem heights of up to three feet.

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Preparing parsnips raw

Whether purchased or harvested from your own garden, parsnips are immediately suitable for raw consumption after brushing and washing. Only the following details should be observed:

  • wrinkled parsnips better suited for boiling, cooking, frying
  • wrinkled peelings should be peeled first in any case
  • leave in one piece until further processing or raw consumption
  • cutting too early leads to dehydration
Pastinake schälen

Tip: If you have already peeled a fresh parsnip but it is not eaten raw immediately, it will quickly turn brown. To avoid this, place the peeled vegetable in a bowl of cold water until it is eaten or further processed.

Shelf life of raw parsnips

A fresh, raw parsnip will quickly turn unsightly brown and mushy at room temperature. Especially for raw consumption, it subsequently lacks “crunchiness” and flavor. For this reason, the parsnip should be placed in the refrigerator immediately after harvesting or purchase. There it will keep between three and four weeks. It can also be frozen, which gives it a shelf life of between ten and twelve months. However, after thawing, it loses stability and becomes softer. Freezing does not affect the taste, it is just not as firm to the bite when eaten raw.

Pastinaken im Kühlschrank

Frequently asked questions

What should I look for when buying fresh parsnips for raw consumption?

Basically, parsnips should always be freshly harvested. You can recognize them by their smooth skin and firm consistency. Young, smaller specimens around 20 centimeters long and weighing about 300 grams are also recommended. Experience has shown that these have a more aromatic flavor and are more tender to the bite. Large parsnips often taste woody. In addition, there should be no bruises.

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How can browning of raw parsnips in salad be prevented?

To prevent raw parsnips from turning brown during the standing time of dressed salads, sprinkle them with lemon juice before preparing the salad. This will prevent the quick browning.

Can babies eat parsnips raw instead of cooked porridge?

Theoretically, yes, from the fifth month of life, if they have enough teeth to chew. However, this is usually not the case until around the first year of life. Then they can be given to nibble on questionably. Apart from the numerous healthy nutrients, they also have a stool-regulating effect, are slightly soothing to the stomach and are easy to digest. The little ones usually particularly like the slightly sweet flavor.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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