I planted the hardier vegetables by seed directly in the garden and they are all well on their way as sprouts now....all except for the parsnips. I took the easy way out when it came to them and planted left over seed from last year. That was not a well-informed choice. I usually do not do this, but it just felt wrong to throw away last year's seeds and purchase a new packet when I had so much remaining. I have been waiting a watching for two weeks now and nothing has emerged. I decided to do what I should have done in the beginning: research how long-lived parsnip seed is. I have an old seed storage life chart that I clipped form the Portland Press Herald in 2010. They got the chart from Allen Sterling and Lothrop, Maine's oldest seed company and plant nursery right in my home town of Falmouth. According to the chart, parsnips are one of the few seed types that only last a year. I would have done better to recycle my tomato seeds than replant the parsnips.
I just got back from running out to one of our local nurseries, which was mobbed for Mother's day, and bought a new packet of parsnip seed. They are now safely tucked in their 1/2 inch of soil, cocooned away for 10 to 20 days days until they emerge as little seedlings. I will be able to harvest them in 95- to 105 days, but they sweeten up after a hard frost. They also last all winter in my refrigerator. We just roasted our last ones from the 2012 harvest.
To save others the effort, I have attached a seed storage chart printed by the University of Virginia's Cooperative Extension Service. Check it out and be sure to read their advice about how to store it at the bottom.
Viability of Vegetable Seeds
(Average number of years seeds may be saved) Vegetable Years Asparagus 3
Brussels sprouts 4
Chinese cabbage 3
Corn, sweet 2
Cress, water 5
"Saving purchased seed: Properly stored seed remains viable for different lengths of time depending on the type of seed. Be aware that seed companies may store seeds up to the number of years of their viability prior to selling them. To ensure maximum viability of purchased seed after its package has been opened, remaining seed should be sealed in air tight containers and stored in a cool, dark location. Glass jars with rubber seals, such as baby food jars or canning jars, or tightly sealed plastic bags stored inside jars are good choices. Be sure to label all stored seed with the species name and original package date. For all kinds of saved seeds, be sure to mark the storage containers clearly with permanent (preferably waterproof) ink, indicating the variety and date saved. Seeds will remain viable for some time if properly stored. To test for germination, sprout seeds between moist paper towels; if germination is low, either discard the seed or plant enough extra to give the desired number of plants. Excellent books are now available for more details."