Each day when I get home from work, I hang up my keys, set down my bag and head straight to my porch to see what (if anything) has grown since the day before. I get down low and scan the tops of my many containers for any sign of green poking through the dark soil and compost mix. This is my first time gardening in any sort of preplanned, even remotely educated way and I'm both giddy and anxious to see some sign that I did it "right". Is there enough sun? Did I plant the seeds too deep? Should I have paid more attention to what the package said about soil type?
I was recently doing the same thing with a friend's six-year old son. We were walking around their garden to see what new plants had appeared after several days of rain. I told him about my after work routine and he laughed "You're Toad!"
"What?" Kids are well known for saying just what they think, but I couldn't imagine where this declaration had come from.
"You know from Frog and Toad." He looked at me expectantly.
"I don't remember." It had been a long time since I'd read the series.
"Toad was in his garden yelling 'Grow' at his plants. Frog came over and said 'What are you doing? We planted them yesterday'".
Now it was my turn to laugh. I am most certainly Toad.
Thankfully, there is a harvest ready to be enjoyed today. This isn't one of those plants that people day dream about as they flip through seed catalogs on cold, wintry days. No, these plants are the embodiment of persistence, resilience and a sunny disposition. I think their very prevalence makes them all the more fun to discover as a food source.
Behold, my backyard bounty -
A bowl of violets and dandelion greens from my lawn; and a little thyme from my container garden. I've long been a fan of dandelions, but eating them? When I was a kid, my older brother convinced me that the "milk" in their stems was poisonous. This so-called knowledge made creating dandelion chain necklaces feel incredibly daring. Since then I've learned he was just messing with me, but hearing dandelion greens compared to arugula in bitterness scared me off all over again. However, dandelions as food are everywhere this season.
On Earth Eats they're cooking them up and debating whether or not they can actually be called a weed since they're useful. On Firecracker Farm they're gathering the blooms by the basketful and making fritters. In Taproot magazine they're using them to make dandelion vinegar, salads and medicines. It felt wasteful to ignore this bounty blooming all around me.
I'm not used to searching my yard for dinner, much less getting down low to find the youngest, mildest dandelion greens. As I picked them part of me didn't really believe I was going to eat them. But once they were washed and placed in my salad spinner, they looked like any other green. I hadn't planned to eat anything else from my lawn, but when I saw the purple violets I remembered all the beautiful cakes I've seen Alicia at Posie Gets Cozy decorate with them. And I'm sure I've seen Amanda at SouleMama cook with them too - maybe a garnish on her famous basil popcorn? Checking first for bugs, I tentatively bit into one. There was a slight crunch and sweetness, like sucking a clover flower.
I decided to add these home grown ingredients to my go-to after work dinner - a microwavable package of frozen rice and whatever veggies, nuts and beans I have on hand. I finished it off with a littel drizzle of balsamic vinegar and voila, the taste of spring!