3/31/2009

It's a Wild New World

No, that's not a fuzzy photo with spots; what you see are golf ball sized snow clumps falling in a brief snowstorm. The ground was too warm for anything to stick, but for about 30 minutes, it looked like millions of cotton balls falling from the sky. Fortunately the clumps were light and fluffy. It was an odd snow and didn't last long, and it never did get down to freezing here. The red buds are still fluffy and pink and still providing tasty additions to our salads. (Red Bud is in the legume family, the flowers and young pods are both good to eat). The pods, when about an inch long, can be steamed like snap pea pods. Strip the strings off the edges, steam and toss them with a tiny bit of butter and salt. The flowers can be simply picked from the tree and scattered liberally across any salad.

The view from the deck above the garden, looking down, makes the whole garden look ethereal and other worldly. The snow seemed to add a frosty edge to the otherwise extra-green spring colors.

The brief flurries didn't bother the celandine poppies from being in full bloom the following day. Celandine (Chelidonium majus) is assumed by many people to be a native plant but it is, instead, an immigrant from Europe that has escaped and made itself at home in the woods. It was historically used as a folk remedy for treating warts, corns, ringworm and other skin ailments. According to Dr. Jim Duke and Steven Foster, in the Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants, the juice is highly toxic, irritating and allergenic and is not recommended for use. I like it just for the bright yellow flowers and its funny habit of throwing its seed in all directions if you brush against the ripening pods.

Probably the new goat kid should have been named Celandine since she was born the same day as the poppy bloomed. But her mother's name is Althea, so I dubbed her offspring, "Zebrina" for the plant in our garden, Althea Zebrina, which grows at the south edge, near the fence. And, not one, but 2 goat kids were born yesterday, both doing well, nursing and walking, and waking up to the new world. Photos to follow, of course.

In the same bed with the celandine poppies is a patch of native ferns and the fiddleheads are just coming up. These are a treat in the spring. I flash steam them (drop them into boiling water for about 1 minute, then immediately dunk into ice and water for 2 minutes), then I add them to salads. Or simmer the fiddles briefly in butter and serve on top of grilled salmon. You can also saute briefly in butter, then make an omelette, dropping in the fiddleheads and a sprinkling of cheese just before folding over and serving. Fiddlehead ferns are one of the secret spring vegetables of us wild foods forager types. And Emeril Lagasse, on the Food Network, has a recipe for Fiddlehead and Morel Mushroom Ragout. Our morels aren't out yet, but will be popping up in just a few days.

This patch of tulips are at the perfect stage for stuffing. I like to make chicken salad in the springtime and serve it stuffed into individual tulip flowers. Take out the stamen first, break off the stem just below the flower and fill with chicken or seafood salad. Eat the whole thing; it's an elegant and impressive dish to serve to dinner guests. They'll feel so naughty, eating those beautiful flowers.

Did you know that not all tulips smell alike? Compare a deep purple tulip's fragrance to red, pink and yellow. Purple and dark red have the best fragrance, white and light pink have the least. Funny what you can learn by sticking your nose into open flowers.

2 comments:

Garden tips said...

Nice blog Jim look forward to reading more.

compost in my shoe said...

The wide angel shot of the garden is wonderful....looks cold out there! But from the red bud flowers, it looks like spring is right around the corner.....