What is it? Parsnips often languish in produce section anonymity, rejected for their brighter, showier cousins, the carrots. Since they spend their growth span beneath the soil, parsnips also tend to have a rough, dirty exterior, straggly off-shooting roots sometimes growing wild. With their ivory or pale yellow skins, these bulbous root vegetables hide their gifts. Split the skin of a parsnip, and you'll see the same colours in a starchy, potato-like texture.

What is it good for? Parsnips don't land on too many "superfood" top ten lists, but that's only because they tend to be overshadowed by other veggies. They look a bit like pale carrots, but they actually contain much more heart-friendly potassium and folate than carrots. Folate is a B vitamin required for the creation of healthy cells, and having insufficient levels of it has been linked to cancer and birth defects. Parsnips may have only half the protein and vitamin C of potatoes - but they boast more fibre.

What does it taste like? At turns nutty, peppery, or sweet, a parsnip is a subtle, fine-tasting vegetable that makes a good alternative to potatoes.

Unlike their brassy, crunchy carrot relative, parsnips should never be eaten raw. Parsnips need a good, thorough scrubbing before they are cooked. Once they're clean or the skins have been peeled or grated away, parsnips can be baked, sautéed, or steamed. They add an understated sweetness to meat dishes, stews, and soups, and can be candied or used in pies, like sweet potato. Or treat them like potatoes - boil and mash them!

Amy Toffelmire