Looking like a very anaemic, oversized carrot, my experience with parsnip growing is barely six months old. My enjoyment of this incredibly flavoursome, creamy vegetable is only since moving to our promised land just over three years ago. Oh, as a child, it was one of ‘those' veggies that I had to ‘try' but as many times as I ‘tried' it, I still didn't like it!
The establishment of our vegetable garden here in the far north came out of necessity.
1. I like to eat
2. With #1 in mind and the financial constraints we face, growing vegetables makes sound economic sense
3. The flavour of vegetables just pulled from the garden far outweighs any of the effort that growing vegetables takes
4. We now have a reliable water source in the form of a bore which supplies us with all the water we need from an aquifer somewhere below us. Turning on the tap turns on the pump and our guaranteed life-giving, lifetime supply of water is available.
5. I REALLY like to eat!
I make no bones about the fact that God is always speaking to me through the fruit and vegetables that Irish and I grow. My regret is that I haven't written down most of those lessons. Instead they have slipped through my mind like garden fresh hot buttered sweetcorn slips down the throat of a Kiwibird! ;) My thoughts now come from reading through what I have just written.
1. I Like To Eat
God knows I like to eat and his desire is that I partake of things which promote bodily health. Prepared well, parsnips offer vitamins and minerals that help my body to develop to it's potential. Check it out. It really IS true! The longer the parsnip stays in the ground (it can happily overwinter as long as it is well mulched) the bigger it grows but the creaminess and richness of flavour (in my opinion) is to some extent lost. Left too long and it becomes woody and not nice. Something else I discovered. The parsnip, like many fruit and vegetables gathers a lot of its nutrients just under the skin. Peel the skin and away go a lot of the nutrients.
I see a parallel between the optimum time my parsnips are growing and the time God allows me in a certain place to gain the knowledge, experience and spiritual strength he desires for me. If I am watching carefully for the signs, the sighs, the whispers from God and I am willing and eager to obey, my next step will always be at the optimum time for the next stage of my spiritual walk. If I hesitate, wait, or choose to ignore the timing, the consequences will always be with me whether they be catastrophic or merely inconvenient. How much better it is for my spiritual health if I act in accordance with God's plan to give me the best life I can ever have.
2. Financial Constraints
I have many choices about what I do, and I wish I had learned them a long time ago instead of growing crops of weeds that multiplied season after season. Financial constraints, like growing parsnips, are all about timing. If I plant parsnips in the wrong season then there is no way I will achieve my goal of large, delicious, creamy parsnips. I cannot expect a profitable outcome if the preparation is not well done. If I fail to put into the soil the nutrients that support a healthy eco system then parsnips with fail accordingly. If I don't remove the barriers to healthy growth (stones, rocks etc) the parsnip may still grow to an extent but it will never measure up to the growth of a parsnip allowed to reach unimpeded into good soil.
In the same way, if I don't reach deeply into God's life-giving ‘soil' then I can expect that my spiritual growth will be in accordance with what I have put in. Of course, the amazing thing about financial constraints is that God doesn't have any. His blessings are far more than I can dream of – a fact of which I am daily reminded. What I have does not have to dictate my degree of contentment. Focussing solely on God allows Him the freedom to meet all my needs according to His riches in glory. Why should I want to jeopardise my own peace, joy, and growth by not following The Gardener's instructions.
There are many experienced gardeners who say that to end up with a good crop of parsnips they need to experience a good frost (the parsnips that it, not the gardeners!). Here in the winterless north I am not holding out for a frost any time soon. I do recall that we saw a little bit of frost on the ground one day last winter...
In our Christian walk it is often through the ‘cold', hard times that the richness of our spiritual lives develops. I would not choose to walk the more difficult route but I know without a shadow of doubt that it was a ‘difficult' journey just over five years ago that brought me into the place in which I find myself today. (See my Blog Series "I Refuse to Fear") Life is not all ‘cold places' though. Sometimes the produce picked early is the sweetest and just as I need to know the optimum time for digging up my parsnips, I have to believe God knows the optimum time for me to remain within my particular circumstances in order to gain the most beneficial growth.
Where Irish and I lived prior to our move north was limited in it's water supply inasmuch as rain was our only source – for drinking, washing, and gardening. What was in the tank had to keep us going until the next rainfall. Sometimes it did, and sometimes it didn't I was limited to growing vegetables once a year – before the rain slowed down as summer progressed. As soon as Irish started thumping on the tank to check the water level and the hollow sound indicating low water level came back, I knew that home grown vegetables would soon be off the menu.
Not being ‘plumbed' into a permanent supply of living water has the same effect as if I was living on a ‘rainwater' supply. Without the power and nutrients that are supplied from the river of life, I dry out, wither and die. It seems like a no brainer but I can look back and see many times when I have put boulders into the river causing a halt in my own progress, my own growth. Just like the bore supplies all the needs for water in my vegetable garden as long as the pump is turned on, so the living water from the throne of God will supply all my needs as long as I allow it an unimpeded path to my spirit.
5. I REALLY like to eat!
In order to fulfil my desire to eat delicious healthy food I have to work with what I have available. For each of us that is different. There has been a lot of preparation in developing garden beds in which to grow plants, experiments to find the best method of growing vegetables from seed. This has taken time and Irish and I will be the first ones to admit that we are still working on developing our knowledge base. The simple fact is though, unless we are prepared to work towards our goal of optimum production in the space we have available, the limitations of food production will always be there.
The parallel with my Christian walk is clear. What I put into my relationship with God is a measure of what will come out of it. Planting ‘spiritual seeds' in places where I should not be ‘gardening' will not be profitable. Planting a seed and not nurturing it will result – at best – in a poor substitute for God's blessing and at worst, the death of a wonderful opportunity. A parsnip given the opportunity to grow in life-giving rich soil, is difficult to budge. Honestly, there have been times when I have begun to dig up a parsnip and wondered if it had hands on the other end that were tightly around some solid foundation I didn't know about. Our Christian walk is like that. As we are planted deep in our Christian faith, the destructive elements of life cannot take hold of us. We may occasionally become bruised and battered but our strength in Christ is what will help us to maintain our faith and keep us on the path/the plan, that God has for our lives.
I'll never look at a parsnip in the same way again!
Neither will I! I had my first parsnip about a year and a half ago when someone learned I had never had them before. To tell you the truth, I didn't think much of it but as I have read your blog, I think I probably know why! The way something is grown, the timing of when it is harvested, the freshness of the vegetable or fruit all make a big difference in the quality and flavor of the produce.
I really liked your blog which gives us so many lessons from "The Garden".
Wonderful blog, but I only wish that you had provided me with the real secret to growing parsnips for I cannot grow any. Coming from the frost plains of Canterbury in my youth you cannot beat a frost covered parsnip for flavour and I am surprised that you are growing them with success up North.
Aah! WMJ ... may be it is just that I like a more mild flavoured parsnip! I wonder if chucking them in the freezer overnight would 'improve' the flavour if they had been just dug up. You are surprised I am growing parsnips whilst I on the other hand am surprised that anything comes up! God is so good!
I love my parsnips roasted in lard and honey.
As to your five points. I can relate to every one of them.