Like many winter vegetables, the best-tasting parsnips are those dug from the ground after cold weather has set in. Look for firm parsnips that feel heavy for their size, and when peeling and slicing, cut out any woody core (which will be tough and indigestible).
You can coax out a parsnip’s natural sweetness in several ways. Boil or steam sliced parsnips and then toss them with salt, pepper, and good sweet butter. Simmer them with potatoes to purée into a warming soup or a winter mash; add carrots and a bit of curry powder for a more complex dish.
The dry heat of oven roasting is a great way to prepare parsnips simply and may be the best way to accentuate their natural sweetness. Roast peeled, sliced chunks along with pearl onions, or whip up a batch of Crisp Roasted Parsnips, which makes a good snack, appetizer, or side dish for grilled chops—and may tempt even those who say they don’t like parsnips.