The time has come at last when I can no longer see a snow field on top of the hill across the way and the fact is not lost on the things that grow. Indeed, they were preparing themselves before we even saw the last of the snow and while we are trying to get things growing in plastic trays inside they all got the jump on us.
I’ve been meandering about the woods in the last week pulling out the Maple taps as the last of the sap stops flowing for the season and I could nearly watch the little shoots and stalks slipping quietly and quickly through the leaves to the warm-at-last sunshine. Before I can even be thinking about getting seeds in the ground some of these things are already starting to flower.
The lovely thing is that while we wait for our larger more productive plants to grow us some vegetables we can benefit from nature’s head start. Some of the first things we saw growing this year were chives, a wonderfully garlicy herb that I don’t mind chewing on all by their lonesome but usable in most places one
would use a green onion. Chives seem to grow
most anywhere, but they prefer moister areas. We
happened to find them in the middle of a hayfield.
Another good spring green are the fiddle heads of the Ostrich fern. If you get these while they are right they are great sautéed or boiled like a green bean. We saw some of the very first signs of these today poking out of the base of last years bracken. If you go looking for fiddle heads, make sure they are of the right fern species. Other fern species can be toxic, but the Ostrich fern is distinct in that it has three fronds which grow from its base at the ground.
A plant which is new to my knowledge this spring is the toothwort (Dentaria laciniata), an early ephemeral flower which is visible as a plant for at most four weeks of the year. The roots of this flower are a bulb or corm which is reportedly similar in taste to horseradish. I am eager to try making a sauce from some to see if it is true and if they are indeed edible. So no guarantees on this one.
One of my personal favorite sights in the spring is to see great swaths of the forest floor become covered in the mottled, single leaf shoots of the trout lily. If you are looking for a true menu item rather than just mouthfuls, these are a great way to start. The leaves are easily recognizable, easily collectible and they are great as a salad.
There are many other edible plants about to burst forth as well. Ramps and violets and mustard greens to name a few. Mainly I am just excited to see the growing things and to watch the world turn green. There are so many different flowers and plants to see and to appreciate. It’s like seeing old friends coming back after a long winter away.