At the weekend I decided to thin them out a bit further. I felt that this was necessary in order to ensure that the roots had sufficient space to develop properly. If they are too crowded they will just grow thin and weedy. So I removed a fair few of them. In the picture below, the gap indicated by the red arrow is 5" / 13cm, which I think is just about right. The parsnips indicated by the blue arrows are ones that should be removed to create the correct spacing.
Taking out a few of the parsnips gave me a couple of opportunities. First, to check their progress. As you can see in the photo below, none of the ones I removed is very big yet, though that's to be expected at this time of year. But you can also see that they are long and straight, without forking, which is good. On the Down side though, some of them have the tell-tale brown streaks of the disease Canker. As long as this does not get too severe, things will be all right, because I know I almost always get some Canker on my parsnips but it is usually only skin-deep and gets removed along with the skin when the veggies are being prepared for cooking.
The second opportunity was this: to eat the thinnings. They are incredibly tiny, and you wouldn't really describe them as a viable harvest, but I thought they might be nice to eat, and it didn't make sense to just chuck them in the compost bin without trying them.
So I cut off the green tops, scrubbed the roots thoroughly, boiled them and served them as an accompaniment to a roast chicken. They were amazingly good! We felt that all the flavour of a full-sized parsnip was already present in the tiny 'babies'. They cooked very evenly too - they went tender without going mushy, and there were no fibrous bits at all. Jane said they were so nice that maybe I should go and dig up ALL the parsnips right away, without waiting for them to grow any bigger.
I suppose I could do the same with Celeriac, couldn't I? NO WAY! I only have six Celeriac plants and I really want them to do well this year. Right now they are well and truly small - although you can just see the beginnings of their "bulbs" showing up white against the soil.