A very long time ago in the period when Roman culture was the most important way of life in the limited scope of the world of that time, there grew a biennial herb in the Italian fields and roadsides. The Romans knew it as Pastinaca, from pastus, which means food. And their name many centuries later influenced formation of the word which we know as parsnip. The Latin Pastinaca still is accepted in modern botany as the scientific name for our wild parsnip. Although in the wild state the wild parsnip's thick tap root was considered slightly poisonous, in cultivation it apparently lost that attribute and became a prominent food in European countries. Parsnips then, as they are now were a winter vegetable which was not considered really edible until alter it had been frozen in the ground. The usual way was to dig parsnips after frost, bury them in a heap of loose leaves and earth, and dig in alter them when a dinner of parsnips was desired. They were one of the very few winter vegetables available to people long ago before preservation of fresh summer vegetables was possible.
Pastinaca sativa L.
June - August Roadsides, fields.
Somehow, as so many other European plants did. the wild parsnip came to America. It grew readily in New World soil and by mean- of its abundant seed production it spread rapidly.
Today in mid-summer the stately, aromatic, channeled, columnar stem of the wild par-nip grows taller and taller into the summer sunshine. The leaf-stems clasp the stalk: the stalk itself branches many times, and the leave- are long, compound, bright green. At the tips of the stalks are broad, flat umbels of brassy-yellow flowers arranged rather beautifully so that all the flowers are spread to the sun.