chitting parsnip seeds

Parsnip Update: Chitting Seeds Like ‘The Woman Who Does My Feet’.

As I’ve confessed before, I’m rubbish at growing parsnips.

This inadequacy has recently been compounded by my mum. Not only has she learned to text, she now knows how to send picture messages. Cue a number of photos showing large parsnips from her garden winging their way to me (including the ones below).

chitting parsnip seeds

Growing in Florist Buckets
I am not having that, so this year I’m trying a couple of different methods in my quest for ‘snip success.

Firstly, I’ve planted seeds in four florist buckets. I prepared the soil a couple of weeks ago, filling the buckets with a mix of multi-purpose compost, a little of my own stuff, and some sand. Apparently parsnips like sand.

The Saturday before last I sowed White Gem parsnips seeds into four buckets. No sign of germination yet, but it is early (I’m telling myself this anyway).

I think my mum’s parsnips are much better than mine because she has grown hers in crumbly raised-bed soil, rather than the stony stuff that I have to deal with down the plot. Parsnips are not keen on stones, which could be another reason for my appalling recent record.

I’ve always concentrated on growing them directly into the ground, so it will be interesting to see how they get on in containers.

Chitting, Like the Chiropodist
During a conversation with mum, I also hit on another growing technique, courtesy of ‘the woman that does my feet’. Now, I’m not that well versed with mum’s feet, but I think she’s got bunions. Or maybe corns. Either way, I think she’s talking about the local chiropodist.

According to mum, during her last visit, the local chiropodist told her she chits her parsnip seeds to ensure good germination. This involves sprinkling the seeds on to a damp piece of kitchen roll laid inside a plastic tub, covering with cling film, and popping them into the airing cupboard. At the first sign of germination, the chiropodist whisks the seed away and plants it in multi-purpose compost.

Planting in Toilet Rolls
However, the Bloke Who Walks The Dog That Looks Just Like Benny (our much-missed family pet) told mum that it would be better at this stage to put the newly-germinated seeds into used toilet roll centres, cut into three, and filled with multi-purpose compost. The seedlings grow on, before being planted – rolls n’all – into the ground, where the cardboard will then biodegrade and get out of the growing parsnip’s way.

Heeding this advice, I’ve been collecting my used toilet rolls (plus a few from work – picked up a few strange looks coming out the gents with them in my pocket) and as soon as I get seed germination I’ll be transferring some into these, and some others directly into my remaining florist buckets.

I love mum’s little network of veg growers. Hopefully, their advice will come good, and I’ll get decent parsnips for the first time in my allotment life.

I’ve been using last year’s seeds, but I also bought a new packet last week, as I’m told I should buy fresh seeds every year. I’m not sure why this is, but perhaps I’ll get mum to ask the woman that does her feet next time she has her bunions done.

10 thoughts on “Parsnip Update: Chitting Seeds Like ‘The Woman Who Does My Feet’.”

  1. This was a super-entertaining post! =)

    Why is it that everything you grow is not only something I’ve *never* grown, but may be something that I’ve never even eaten? Parsnips — no, I’ve never had one. Have no idea what it tastes like. I’m guessing vanilla carrot. Chitting? Good thing you explained that one. Airing cupboard? No idea what that is.

    If only you had thrown in a few acronyms like BST or PSB, my confusion would have been complete. 😉

    (I know what BST and PSB are now.)

    1. Alan – haha. Sorry about that. My girlfriend is half-American, I’ll get her to proof read future posts for you to weed out the English-isms. 🙂

      Vanilla carrot is a pretty good way of describing parsnips. They’re a quintessential English veg. Very popular and hardy, and really tasty. We like them with our roast dinners.

      Perhaps we should try some of each other’s veg varieties??

      Oh, and an airing cupboard is a cupboard with our hot water tank in there, so it is humid.

      Thanks for reading,


  2. Hello Jono. I tried a similar technique to germination on kitchen roll, in a tub last year – only modified it from someone else’s advice to using coloured tissue paper. As luck would have it we had some red paper napkins left over from a party. The benefit is that you can more easily see when they’ve started to sprout. Then you immediately transfer them to loo roll tubes. Unfortunately, you shouldn’t then forget about them like I did cos then you end up with no parsnips. Sigh. Still not managed to grow parsnips at all. Maybe this year?

  3. I’ve tried the toilet roll method with sweetcorn but found it quite horrible as the toilet roll grows all sorts of interesting fluffy mould before the sweetcorn is ready to plant! Good luck with your fluffy stuff!

    Main thing with parsnips is to have fresh seed – do not save from previous years. Germination is the trickiest part, after that they grow away easily, even here in my heavy and slightly stony clay. Biggest problem I have is digging out 18 inch long parsnips from soggy clay in the middle of winter!

  4. I’m a firm advocate of the chitting in the airing cupboard followed by growing on in toilet rolls method, athough I give them the full lenght rather than chopping them into 3 as I feel they need the length to avoid any risk of the root getting stunted.

    Mine are currently out of the airing cupboard and in their loo rolls in the greenhouse with about half of them now showing leaves above the soil. In the next couple of weeks they’ll go into holes in the ground dug about twice the depth of the rolls and filled with potting compost to give them sommething nice and soft and stone free to grow into.

    I followed the same method last time I grew them and had stunning results, the largest parsnips I’d ever seen in fact…. 🙂

  5. What Alan, never eaten them! They are the best winter veg I reckon, best parboiled then roasted, at least that’s what Jan does.

    From the bloke married to the woman who has her feet done by the woman who knows about chitting but advocates a different method to the bloke who walks the dog that looks like Benny.

    Or just Paul really

  6. Spooky – I just put mine to chit yesterday – in the heated propogator. I will also be putting mine in toilet rolls saved by me and my mum – who does not have her feet done by anyone with any opinions on parsnips or dogs for that matter. I will be leaving the loo rolls whole though… :o)

    1. Alan – I’m not sure if there are regulations preventing it, but I’d be more than happy to send a pack over to you?

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