Document Type

Book Chapter



Download Full Text (1.1 MB)




parsnips, Baschtnaad, aphrodisiac, hemlock, agriculture, Pennsylvania Dutch sayings


Handwritten manuscript entitled, "Parsnips", compiled by Victor C. Dieffenbach, dated August 3, 1953. Within, Dieffenbach details how to grow and cultivate parsnips and relates the various uses, sayings and folklore surrounding this vegetable.

Corresponds to:

Packet 577-213-11 to 577-213-12


Parsnips! “De Bosht-nawda!”

Parsnips are another standby of our Penna. Dutch fore-bears.

“Bosht-nawda un blenty mutter's-millich Mocht de Yunga gsundt un willich!" (Parsnips and plenty of mother’s milk makes the kids healthy and soft as silk.)

The above quoted P. Dutch aphorism I knew by heart as a kid of four years of age.

Parsnips should always be planted in a deep and friable soil, so the roots can go down deep; they are long and white and sweet, and can be used from early autumn to late in the Spring.

Since they require a long season to develop, they should be sowed early, as soon as the soil is in good condition. In the gardens of the rural area where I was born, raised, and practically lived the prescribed three score and ten years, parsnips, if they were planted, were in rows of about twenty inches apart and I’d say six or eight inches apart in the row; if allowed some room to breathe and given plenty of good plant food, they will develop to enormous size. Nine inches in circumference, and about 2 foot long was no rarity in Ed. Schaeffer’s garden. Of course there were smaller ones; and they told me that the smaller they were, the better the taste. If I had some for dinner today, and then some for supper in 1990, it would be twenty years too soon.

“Yae, de sin goot! Ya gewiss!” (Oh yes, they are good! Sure they are!) If they weren’t, nobody would eat them. Only I prefer spare-ribs, and sauer-kraut.

Parsnips can be dug as used, and left in the ground until late Fall; then a part of the crop should be stored in a pit or root cellar, but some should be left in the ground all Winter; these can then be dug and used the following Spring, after the stored supply is exhausted.

"Von en maidel tsu feel bosht-nawda fresst, no wert see so boova-narrish os see sich sheer nimmy helfa con!" (If a girl eats too many parsnips she will get so sexy that she can hardly help herself!) (Old Ketty Hertzler - de brauch-frau.)

Like turnips, parsnips can be used as food for cattle or sheep, if desired to get rid of surplus; but too many at one feed or meal will also tinge the milk with a peculiar flavor.

Poison-hemlock is a distant cousin or outlaw of the parsnip, and are similar in foliage, and bear the Penna. Dutch name- “Bosht-nawda-gift.”

August 3rd, 1953

Der Aldt Bauer


Signed in Dieffenbach's pen name of "Der Oldt Bauer" (The Old Farmer).


English and Pennsylvania German

Rights Statement

This item is available courtesy of the Ursinus College Library Special Collections Department. It is not to be copied or distributed for commercial use. For permissions which fall outside of educational use, please contact the Special Collections Department.

Dieffenbach on Parsnips, August 3, 1953



Rights Statement

Rights Statement

In Copyright. URI:
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).


To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.