Spring has sprinkled little blue violets on the grassy bank above the garden, as the days grow warm and sunny. The hills are bathed in warm April sunshine today, with a light breeze that riffles through the greening grass. The long tendrils on the weeping willow tree wave gracefully in the wind.
The red bloom on the maple trees appears, and there is a green tinge on the tips of other trees. It is a miracle how a few days of sunshine can awaken the earth and coax the grass to grow lush and green, while early wild flowers blossom at its touch.
We have longed for these early spring days, and the youngsters romp and play all the day long in the mild temperatures. Tricycles and wagons dot the lawn, while the older children drag their bicycles out of the garage and spin up and down the road. It is a dainty April day, soft and caressing, to be enjoyed to the utmost. Our heavenly Father knows exactly when to change the seasons.
It is a day to get outside, to pick wild greens and partake of spring’s bounty. One of Daddy’s springtime pleasures was to hunt and pick the earliest wild greens. He would walk off the hill with his metal dishpan and paring knife, and invite me to go along on his culinary excursion.
Picking wild greens is an art. It is not only a matter of knowing just what wild greens are good to eat, but also being able to balance the different flavors in order to produce a palatable dish. Daddy was an expert at this. He knew so many varieties, and how much of each one was needed. I wish I had learned more while he was still here and able to teach.
The last time I picked greens was with Mom. Picking greens is not something to be enjoyed alone. In order to receive the ultimate pleasure, it ought to be embarked upon with a congenial companion. Mom was nearing her 80th birthday, but she could still hike uphill and down and pick a pokeful of wild greens. In fact, more than once she turned around and asked me, “Is this too hard on you?”
I recall well that day. The sun shone down warm on our heads, the air was soft with the breath of spring, and all over the fields at our feet the tender, new plants were growing. Mom was no slouch at identifying wild greens either, and she would point out and tell me the common names of the greens she knew.
Wild greens were a staple food when she was a girl growing up, and were eagerly looked forward to after a heavy winter diet of dried beans and cellar food. Although it is possible now to purchase a variety of greens at the supermarket, we still relish that first mess of wild springtime greens.
We picked the common dandelion green, which is probably familiar to most folks. Not too many though—else the end result would be too bitter. They are tender now, but will become tough and unpalatable in the summer heat.
We picked some violet leaves too, using the whole clump including the blossoms and buds. They are extremely high in vitamin C, especially the blossoms. We found wild beet, wild potato, white top, “groundhog greens” or heal-all, sheep sorrel, sour dock, and yellow dock. We picked one sprig of bitter lettuce “for flavor,” said Mom.
I will never be able to pick greens again with Mom. Her days of searching for wild greens are over, as well as her other labors. Sometimes she frets because she is not able to help, but we tell her she has earned her rest. But I wish I could pick greens with her again, one more time.
The first morels are also appearing, although the main crop is ahead of us. Our son Michael has found a few little ones, and my sister-in-law Alice boasted of finding two. These days of warm sunshine should encourage them to pop through the ground. Of all the springtime joys, finding morel mushrooms heads the list. Of course digging ramps are a close second, and they are young and tender right now.
It has been a hard winter for us, with many mishaps. It started out with my broken leg two days after Christmas, then gall bladder surgery following some really sick days. A couple of weeks ago I was the recipient of a severe dog bite (another Border collie—I was trying to break up a dog fight, and should have known better.) A few days later, I shut the car door on my eye (black eye).
Matthew is following in my footsteps. He dropped one of his hearing aids in a glass of milk, and can’t hear much better than I can see. We are very happy that winter is over.
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