It’s parsnips at 20 paces in Sydney at the moment. A story that gripped readers of Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph yesterday was a spat over parsnips: Can you believe it? Parsnips. So much for the joys of MasterChef. The increasingly invisible Don Burke, the former guru of Australian gardens, doesn’t like parsnips and News Ltd cheffette and kitch queen, Donna Hay is troppo about them.

The Smellie reported: “Burke fired the first shot last week when he used his radio program to slam Ms Hay and the The Sunday Telegraph for publishing parsnip recipes in the Sunday Magazine.

“Mr Burke described Ms Hay as “wretched” for serving parsnips to people as they were not fit for pigs. I’m outraged, I’m angry, I’m upset, I’m crushed. I’m all of those things and a lot more,” he said on air.

“If you get that appalling newspaper today, The Sunday Telegraph, and get out Sunday Magazine … that wretched Donna Hay has got two pages of parsnip recipes. I respect pigs, I like pigs, but I wouldn’t give my pet pig parsnips.”

But Mr Burke may have bitten off more than he can chew, with Ms Hay and the parsnip industry rising up to defend this worthy vegetable.

Ms Hay said Mr Burke was “out of touch” and sent a box of parsnips with recipes to Mr Burke to challenge him to confront his prejudices.

“I was surprised he was having a go. It’s just a parsnip,” she said. “If Don cared to step into a modern restaurant he would find everyone’s using parsnips — they’re in vogue.” This is what passes for major debates in the Sydney media these days. So who is right, and whop has the bigger voice. Don has radio program, with few listeners and his ACP Magazines title, Burke’s Backyard (named after his old, successful TV program on the Nine Network) shed more than 16% of its sales in the year to June and now sells around 56,700 copies with each issue.

Ms Hay’s self-titled magazine from News Magazines called Donna Hay, lost around 3.8% of its sales and now sells nearly 83,000 copies with each issue, or around 60% more than Don’a mag. Don also has a spot on A Current Affair most Fridays, which is the program’s worst night of the week. So, the public gives parsnipaphile, Miss Hay more support than the Parsnipaphobe, Mr Burke. And what do I think of parsnips? More please!