You know there is a chill in the air when I start craving parsnips. The fat white roots of the ‘snip are full of earthy sweetness, and just seem like the thing to eat when the cold rain suddenly turns to sleet. That’s exactly what happened today, as I was preparing to snap this photo. I got “hailed out,” and had to take my soup back inside, until the spotty storms moved on and a little bit of overcast sun gave me a window in which to shoot.

Whew. Good thing I had the soup to warm me up when it was all over.

The parsnip is the tuber many people kind of push to the side, in favor of brilliant orange sweet potatoes and ever-popular potatoes. But don’t walk on by those pale, stubby roots, they are actually pretty solid in the nutrition department. Despite their white color, they contain the same family of antioxidants, poly-acetylenes, that their relatives parsley and carrot do. These antioxidants are thought to be anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and even anti-fungal. Beside the antioxidants, parsnips are loaded with Vitamin C, and have healthy amounts of B Vitamins and minerals. And if you have ever peeled and chopped one, you will not be surprised to hear that they are really high in fiber.

Macrobiotics tells us that root vegetables are yang, and that eating them helps pull our energies back to the center. Yes, root vegetable soups like this one can help with that feeling of being scattered,as they warm you to the core. As the weather cools, we need that grounding energy. So make it tasty.

What I really love about the lowly parsnip is it’s sweetness, and yes, it does contain sugars on a par with some fruits. In the days before cane and beet sugars were readily available, Europeans used parsnips as a sweetener, if you can imagine that. But roast or braise it and you can caramelize those sugars, making a wonderfully sweet and savory veggie roast or stew. It’s so sweet that a puree of parsnip can be used to bulk out your dessert baking, like mashed bananas, or even a sweet sauce, if you cover the root-y taste with some chocolate or other flavors. The parsnip purees like  dream, easily reducing to a silky texture, and one that won’t become gummy, like potatoes.

So, the soup above is my answer to a craving for a warming bowl of sustaining soup.

Creamy Parsnip Carrot Soup with Kale

This soup is all plant-based, and thickened with only the veggies themselves. That makes it a great gluten-free creamy soup, too, since it requires no flour to bind it. Feel free to go all parsnip, or sub another herb for thyme, like fresh rosemary.

Makes about 5 cups

1 large onion, chopped

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 pound parsnips, peeled and chopped

1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped

2 cups water

2 cups plain non-dairy milk

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped

6 leaves kale, stemmed and chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

generous grind of black pepper

1. In a large pot, saute the onion in olive oil until very soft and starting to turn golden, at least 15 minutes. While it cooks, prep the parsnips and carrots. Add the roots to the pan and saute for another 10 minutes over medium-low heat. Then, add the water and bring to a boil. Cover and lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for about 20 minutes, until the parsnips are falling apart tender. Let the veggies cool a little, then transfer to a blender and puree. Add the non-diary milk and puree until smooth.

2. Return the soup to the pan and reheat over medium heat. Stir in the thyme, kale, salt, cayenne and pepper and keep stirring until the kale is softened. Don’t boil, but slowly heat to wilt the greens and herbs.

3. Can be served hot, or cooled and packed away for re-heating later in the week.