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In Swedish and, I'm led to believe, British supermarkets, parsnips are often sold pre-clipped. Topped and tailed.

If I have a choice, I prefer to buy my veg with a few leaves on so I can see how fresh it is. So I have rather cynically assumed that this is done to hide the age of the product. Whether or not this is the case, I wonder why the same trimming service is not extended to carrots.

Anyone able to shed some light?

Update: Quite often just the tip of the parsnip is trimmed. This appears to be a global phenomenon; here are some parsnips from an Australian market.

parsnips

The two answers I've so far received are good, but don't explain why the tip might also be trimmed.

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2  
In the US I've often seen topless carrots. –  Yamikuronue Apr 20 '12 at 13:27
1  
People are lazy and will happily spend a bit extra to avoid the trouble of peeling and chopping. Simple. –  ElendilTheTall Apr 20 '12 at 15:23
    
@ElendilTheTall: Jumping to conclusions a bit. –  Jefromi Apr 20 '12 at 15:41
    
Valid conclusions, yes :P –  ElendilTheTall Apr 20 '12 at 16:58

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The answer to why parsnips are topped is answered satisfactorily by both Steven and Jefromi.

So why are parsnips also trimmed at the tail? This is obvious to anyone who is familiar with the unadulterated specimen.

Behold the untrimmed parsnip!

untrimmed parsnips

The full root is of quite variable length and sometimes long enough to be unwieldy in packaging. If you're not happy about your parsnips being tailed, you can do as I once saw Jamie Oliver do and carve pointed tips back onto your parsnips for presentation purposes.

To summarise: There appears to be no chicanery here. The tops are trimmed to increase shelf life. While sellers, most likely, do this for their own benefit, you might just as well top parsnips yourself if you are not going to use them directly. This goes for both parsnips and carrots.

Parsnips are tailed, I hold, simply to make them a more manageable product. For carrots this is unnecessary; the carrot varieties I have seen either appear to lack this long thin tail entirely, or have a very thin hairlike tail.

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Also quite possibly -- they're using some sort of mechanized washing, and if the tips were left on, they'd get broken off in a less controlled manner. –  Joe Dec 31 '12 at 3:02

The leaves steal moisture from the root, resulting in a limp vegetable. Removing the leaves increases storage life.

My guess is that supermarkets perform this service for their benefit rather than yours. If they left the tops on, they would have to sell their entire stock daily, and have their suppliers pick fresh ones to replace what was sold. This results in a more delicate, less reliable supply chain.

Either way, when you purchase carrots or parsnips with the tops on, remove the tops right away if you are not going to cook them that day.

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In the US, carrots are normally sold topless too.

I do understand the desire to see those fresh green leaves on it, but in fact, they're not helping. Since they're still alive, they draw nutrients and water out of the root, decreasing what's left for you. This means they may actually be worse than ones that had the tops left on them, especially if they've been stored for a while. They'll have less flavor and won't be as crisp. If you do buy them with the tops still on, it's a good idea to at least trim them before storing.

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