Parsnip anyone?

A couple weeks ago, Joe was weedwacking around the wood piles and the apple tree. The next day, he broke out into a rash that blistered. We thought that it was poison ivy. It turns out the culprit was something known as wild parsnip. Wild parsnip is a very interesting, and beautiful plant that can grow up to eight feet tall.

Look at all those wonderful, happy looking yellow flowers! I love the looks of them, and given that they have edible roots, am very happy to know that we have an abundance of food in our backyard that we didn’t even have to think about growing. (Too bad neither of us really care for parsnip.)

From what research I’ve dug up this morning, wild parsnip was brought over by the settlers as a main staple crop. When it was “traded up” for the potato, the plants began to run rampant and now inhabit all but four states of the US – Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and Hawaii. Like most plants that came over on the ships, it’s considered invasive, but very little has been done to help eradicate it as local plants are not directly harmed by it.

We have even more over in the area across from the main garden!

While the roots are edible, the plant itself is horrendous. Wild parsnip plants contain furanocoumarin, a photosensitive chemical that causes a condition known as phytophotodermatitis, which in a simple way means that the chemical combined with UV rays creates a chemical reaction that will burn. Theses burns will blister in a matter for 24 – 48 hours and dissipate, leaving behind dark spots and lines that somewhat resemble freckles. These markings can take anywhere from two months to three years to go away. If you get the sap on your skin at all, it’s recommended to wash with cold water and stay indoors. Sweat will exasperate the process, as will heat and sun. Some folks suggest seeking treatment from a physician or pharmacist as this is technically a chemical burn, which makes me very glad I had Joe doing a baking soda paste on his arms to help combat it.

The only way to really remove the plant is to mow or wack (with protection obviously) consecutively, pull the plant up roots and all, cut the plant off at the root with a spade, or own a cow. A little area in my mind is now trying to figure out the possibility of owning a cow on such a tiny plot of land…

2 responses to “Parsnip anyone?

  1. Ouch, yeah… learned about that a little while ago from some people around here. We’ve got a lot of it up around the woods at the mine, so we make sure to warn people new to the area. Also have it around here. So pretty, but painful! Hope Joe’s okay!

  2. He’s doing better now, thanks Des. Hopefully the scarring won’t last too long, but at least it’s finally calmed down on the blistering. I’m just so glad a family friend of his mentioned wild parsnip to us. We were really at a loss for what it was! I might harvest some this fall to see if we like the taste of the root, but I’m thinking we’ll probably let a couple friends of ours come harvest to their hearts content if they’re interested.

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