Parsnip and Horseradish




Ard Louis


Andreas Kranke

“Why do the English call ‘Meerrettich’ horseradish? Daniel, wouldn’t that be something for your blog?” Andreas asked me at our recent boat club dinner. And so let me present to you the results of my investigations combined with a presentation of a very English vegetable: parsnip.

Well, why do we actually call “Meerretich” “Meerrettich”? But I leave that to Andreas. He’s the “Germanist”…

The first mistake to make, is to think that “horse” has anything to do with “Pferd”. According to the online etymology dictionary “the common name preserves the once-common figurative sense of horse as ‘strong, large, coarse’, reflecting the taste of horseradish. “radish” is the easy part. It’s a cognate of “Radieschen”. And so we could literally translate horseradish as “scharfes Radieschen”.

As to parsnip: it’s basically a white carrot (maybe in analogy to the paleness of the English…?). But unlike a carrot you cannot eat it raw. Well ok, you can, but it tastes like…(well use your imagination…). But it’s fantastic in a soup. Ard Louis has spoiled us last week with a wonderful parsnip soup at his place. It somehow resembles the taste of pumpkin soup. The German word for parsnip would be “die Pastinakwurzel”, which honestly I’ve never heard before.


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