Rescue Story: Plenty of Parsnips

Noticed the number of parsnips cropping up in boxes recently? It’s pretty normal for us to rescue root veg at this time of year, but we’ve had a load more parsnips than we’d expect, as one of our growers had a lot “too many” at risk of going to waste. Rather than just rescue them for your boxes and have done with it, we wanted to dig a bit deeper into the story to share it with you. So, we caught up with Jonny from Nationwide Produce (which is collaborated with Frederick Hiam) to understand all things root veg right now. And here’s what he said:

Frozen mud and parsnips freshly picked

“We’ve got a bit of a yin and yang situation with regard to carrots and parsnips right now. But a lot of it starts a few months back.

If we rewind back to July 2022 when the parsnip season began, temperatures were 40c plus. The crops were struggling, water was running out and we looked set for a shortage. Winter fast approached and, in the last month of the growing window, it seemed Mother Nature had a change of heart. The ground was frost-free and the temperatures comfortably mild, which meant parsnips could keep growing for longer than usual. “Great!” we thought. The outlook was bright.

We tried to harvest, but it was impossible. All we got were big clods of frozen soil and damaged machinery. It was a disaster. And, as the temperatures plunged to -8c, all we could do was wish for warm weather….and fast. But it didn’t happen. We were literally frozen out for our two busiest weeks of the year.  

Then, January arrived. The festive parsnip rush was over, but our Christmas tonnage was still in the ground.

Thankfully, parsnips are hardy crops (this is the “yang” part of the situation). They’ll tolerate cold weather, so we now have plenty of fantastic parsnips available. But, with the Christmas rush long-gone and the end of the season drawing closer, we now have “too many” for the demand. And making sure they don’t go to waste is imperative – that’s where Oddbox can help us! 

As for carrots, that’s a different story. They’re the “yin” part of the situation because they aren’t as hardy as parsnips in colder temperatures. Many growers cover a portion of their carrot crop with a layer of straw, but the rest are left in open ground, subject to whatever the weather throws at them. Typically, these open ground crops will more or less have been harvested by the time cold weather does arrive – but not this season! The freezing temperatures we had in December seriously damaged a large percentage of the UK carrot crop – even those that were under straw were affected by such low temperatures as the frost was able to penetrate deeper as time went on. The second freeze in January only made it worse.

The UK now finds itself in a situation where good carrots are hard to find. And any that are there are fast running out because of the increased demand. April is usually the last month of the UK carrot season, where they’re harvested from the fields up in Scotland, but here we are in late February, already chomping through the Scottish crop. It’s really looking like the season will finish earlier and that we’ll be relying on imported carrots sooner than expected.

But even imports aren’t what we’d expect right now. You might have seen on the news that Spain’s had cooler-than-usual temperatures, meaning their carrot crop hasn’t grown as planned. Our second port of call would be France, but (you guessed it!) cooler weather means their early crop may also be battling to meet demand.

So, while you’re helping us find good homes for our “too many” parsnips, we’re in a sticky situation with carrots. And this looks set to continue until the new UK season rolls around…fingers crossed Mother Nature is kinder to us this year!”

Updates like this highlight the importance of our grower-led mission – helping growers find good homes for fruit and veg at risk of going to waste, and understanding that, when certain produce isn’t available, it’s usually down to factors out of their control (which is often the weather, as we’ve seen a lot this season!).