Here in New England, we had a "dusting" of snow that was nearly half a foot right before Thanksgiving. We discussed harvesting the root vegetables then, but I (always trying to extend our growing season) said let's wait. Because they can take it and some veggies are said to be sweeter after a frost. Then came the ground freeze. Yikes!
We've had about a week of thaw with temps starting to dip back down tonight, and you can imagine my grand plan as I was driving home: harvest now!!!
Farmer Mike started felling Brussel Sprout stalks and I started plucking the carrots from the slushy, semi-frozen earth. After more than a dozen, I realized I needed a trug. To the garage I went picking out a mid-sized trug and back to the task of filling it till overflowing with carrots. Then I moved on to the parsnips.
By this time, I was starting to lose feeling in my fingers from digging through the frozen tundra of grow boxes. I grabbed a large mound of parsnip tops and pulled - nothing. I adjusted my frozen grip and gave a considerable tug - nothing. With darkness closing in, I scrambled up into the two and a half foot high grow box and straddled the stubborn parsnip. I gripped the top with both hands and slowly and deliberately pulled with all my might - SNAP! Off came all the green tops and I almost toppled head over heels out of the box. Standing in the cold darkness panting from the exertion, I used my numb fingers to try to determine where the parsnip is hiding. I call for reinforcements. Farmer Mike promptly brings over the digging knife for me.
Now for those of you that don't know, a digging knife is a curved blade about 6 in long with a 4-inch handle that cuts but also can be used for digging.
I proceed to loosen the soil around the parsnip top. Pushing the digging knife into the soil close to, but not touching the parsnip and wiggling back and forth on all four sides. I remove the knife, grab the top of the parsnip, and that's when I realized what I'm up against. the top of this parsnip is as big around as my fist! I try the digging knife again, this time sinking it further into the soil. Sink, wiggle, sink, wiggle all the way around. I grab the parsnip, it does not budge. I repeat this process several more times until the end of my knife handle is below the surface of the soil. I reach down and finally the parsnip twists an inch. I grab with both hands and firmly twist it again to break it free from any small roots that might still be anchoring it to the soil. Then, with it firmly between both of my aching hands, I give one last heroic heave. Success!!!
She sure is a beaute! Nearly 4 inches across at the stem and almost 22 inches in length. I'm not sure if it was the struggle or the frost, but it definitely tastes sweeter! Some men have fishing stories, but tonight I share with you the parsnip story. The story of the one that almost got away.