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Way back in spring parsnips were just an idea of food, tiny seeds buried in bare soil, and the seedlings grew so slowly through summer that I sometimes forgot what they were. The growth spurt hit in August and a month later the plants had become an official nuisance, nodding and falling upon baby lettuces and fledgling carrots. I chopped them back impatiently and thought no more on the matter until yesterday, while assembling the season’s first beef bourguignon.

Parsnips! On with the puffy coat and out into the snowy night I went, to coax them from the ground. They smelled so sweet and cold like the winter night — and amusingly, incongruently, of marshmallows too.

I swoon for roasted parsnips, salted and crisp and caramelized, and I always mean to make them with ginger.

Six months is an eternity in the vegetable garden — two iterations of peas, four generations of lettuce. Even scraps become soil faster than parsnips become parsnips, so you give up space plus time to grow your own. Right now it seems an even trade. They tend themselves once up and going, subsisting gamely while tomatoes and beans chase the limelight. And now, the joy of pulling parsnips from the cold and yielding earth, on this year’s darkest day, when nothing seems alive.

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