This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
The cultivated Parsnip has been produced as a vegetable for eating since early Roman times. The roots, which are the edible part, afford starch abundantly, containing also as chemical constituents albumin, sugar, pectose, dextrin, fat, cellulose, mineral matters, and water, but less sugar than carrots, or turnips. The volatile oil with which this root is furnished causes it sometimes to disagree, and gives a flavour of characteristic peculiarity thereto. Parsnips are highly nutritive, and make a capital supplement to salt fish in Lent. In Gerarde's day Parsnips were known as Mypes. They require careful cooking, without excess of water, else the sugar is mainly boiled out. "Soft words," says an old adage, "butter no Parsnips".
The roots may be stewed with advantage so as to retain their principal qualities. "Take nice Tender Parsnips, and cut them in rings; put them into a stewing-pot in layers, sprinkling over them some sugar (perhaps a little flour), and adding butter (a small piece between each layer); pour three-quarters of a pint of water over, and let it simmer for two hours, giving the pot an occasional toss." For Parsnip fritters: "Wash, and scrape the Parsnips, and cut them in slices; cover them with boiling water, and cook them until tender; then mash them through, a colander, and return them over the fire; add to two large Parsnips a tablespoonful of butter, with salt, and pepper to taste, also one egg well beaten up; mix thoroughly, and remove from the fire, making it when cool into small, flat cakes, and fry these in a little butter." All the virtues of the root are thus retained; if boiled in much water it loses its starch, and sugar. Parsnip Marmalade, made with the roots, and a small quantity of sugar, is restorative, and appetizing. Parsnip Wine is exhilarating, and resembles the Malmsey of Madeira, but is of homely vintage only, and not fortified.
Malmsey got its name from Malvasia, in Greece, being also known as Malvoisie; it is usually sweet, strong, and of high flavour, being made in the Canary Islands, and the Azores. Malmsey-Madeira is a combination of the two wines.
"Old Simon the Cellarer keeps a large store,
Of Malmsey, and Malvoisie, And Cyprus; and who can say how many more?
For a chary old soul is he! Of Sack, and Canary he never doth fail, And all the year round there is brewing of Ale; Yet he never aileth, he quaintly doth say, While he keeps to his sober six flagons a day;
But ho! ho! ho! his nose doth show How oft the black Jack to his lips doth go".
Parsnip tea is an admirable drink for promoting a free flow of urine. "Cleanse, and slice a couple of Parsnips, and boil them in a quart of water from two to three hours, and strain".
If some of this is drunk with an equal quantity of barley-water it proves of excellent service for allaying urinary irritation. Whilst wild this root is shunned by cattle; its juices are then somewhat acrid, as well as sweet, and will cause disturbance of the brain even to insanity. It is believed in some parts of England that persons who eat of old parsnips which have been long in the ground, invariably become mad; on which account the root is called there "Madnip".