Spring at 6512 feet is like taking Amtrak rather than an airplane to your destination. It’s a slow, pleasing journey with plenty of station stops at which to peer out a window and notice the first lemon-yellow goldfinches returning.
You could even take a long nap–for like three days–and barely miss anything. In fact, I’ve been milling around the garden beds–where pea, lettuce and carrot seeds have been pushed into the soil quite awhile ago–humming a little tune that could be translated as “hellooooo? where the hell is everyone?”
Every night I cut chives into our meals from the singular clump fountaining up from the ground and say, repetitively and with annoying good cheer, “isn’t it great to be eating right from our garden?”
The thing is, at 6512 feet it still freezes in April, every night. And maybe you live somewhere where it never freezes, or where you get a cute, occasional frost in January, or even where winter nights are below 32F but come April, spring is popping like corn kernels in a dutch oven.
Well. Here’s what I woke to yesterday morning, April 22nd:
Uh huh. And this:
But no one was shocked, and just like the tulips, the chokecherries and the chives that are saving us from scurvy, we brushed it off and shivered our way through the morning while playing “jackets on-jackets off-jackets on-jackets off.” And really, most of April has been absolutely lovely. Most afternoons we file outside to look for ladybugs (Col), strip naked and fight the chickens for kitchen scraps (Rose), or whisper encouraging words to the pea sprouts (me).
In the past month we’ve found a lost civilization in our melted yard: sandbox, swing set, mini trampoline. I feel like an archeologist upon making an exciting discovery: “This may have been a place where…children played!”
But those arctic nights do slow things down. We’re usually not harvesting our first silky, salad lettuce until late May, so it is now that I turn to an old, garden party-crasher friend of mine, whom I’m sure you know very well.
The dandelion is the warrior of the garden. The leaves of dandelions are delicious when picked young. Their long tap roots pull up vitamins and minerals from the soil and they’re chock-full of Vitamin A, B and C, and also iron and potassium. They have more calcium than milk, cup for cup. And the slight bitterness makes for a good digestive tonic. We typically eat them raw–coated with salad dressing–but you can also use them as you would cooked spinach, in lasagna, soups, casseroles.
And my goodness, they’re free! Planted by the wind, rain and sun, all you do is show up with your scissors. (I even saw my neighbor Sage, sneaking around the neighborhood yesterday morning with scissors and basket on a dandelion hunt).
I’m pleased to report that the indoctrination of small children is going well around here. Col was spotted digging dandelions out of our lawn for salad last week. (Lawn being a loose term connoting a few sprigs of grass gasping for air amidst copious dandelions, clover and alfalfa)
My parents, who were visiting and watching the kids, said “Really? Dandelions? No Col, no one eats dandelions.”
Even Rose, on whom we obviously need to step up our efforts, said “Yuck Coley, we not going to eat dem.”
But my boy persisted–amidst snickers and protests–pulling the jagged green leaves and dropping them in a bucket re-purposed from the sandbox. He washed them and presented them to me when I returned.
We added shredded carrots and mung bean sprouts and a not so dainty smothering of homemade miso-mayo dressing.
And even my mom loved it. You could say she ate her words.
Guess who else likes dandelions?
Dandelions and apricot blossoms seem to be the epitome of spring. (unless you’re my mother-in-law in New Jersey and you’ve got all sorts of garden veggies winking up through the soil).
Perhaps, like the bumblebee, we can begin to see these sunny yellow heads as gold in our lawns and gardens. And when we are left with the fuzzy, white seed puffs, may we, like the children, see millions of wishes to be set free on the wind.
Have a sunny weekend with just the right bite of bitter greens!