The surprise being that there were some!
I sowed lots of parsnips last year, but when I investigated in late autumn, I found none thicker than a pencil and most not even that. I quickly - perhaps too quickly - concluded that, like everything else in the garden, they'd failed. Then yesterday I noticed fresh new parsnip leaves coming through.
Then on closer inspection:
In my despondency I'd obviously missed these last year. If there are roots worth having, I don't want them putting all that stored energy into making new plants, I want to eat them! I dug up all I could find, and though most were pretty tiny, there were several that were well worth the effort of digging up.
I was even more surprised when I discovered this one:
This beast is now going into its third year. I could have eaten it a year ago but instead saved it for seeds (which I then failed to collect. They might yet come up amongst the peas). Several of those side roots are bigger than many of the parsnips I sowed last year.
All in all, I have a much better parsnip harvest than I thought I had. I put a few of the smaller ones into a stew this evening and they were delicious - really sweet. I'm looking forward to eating the rest of them, or at least, those I can be bothered to prepare (the little ones might just be too fiddly).