When the Snows Melt

                              Jack-in-the-hedge, or Garlic Mustard.  Native to the UK.  An invasive species, but it's yummy.

                              Jack-in-the-hedge, or Garlic Mustard.  Native to the UK.  An invasive species, but it's yummy.

It goes without saying that this was the first real winter in many years, rivaled only by those I experienced when I was a kid.  I remember the snows being deeper then, though...or maybe it was just that I was smaller; but I can never recall the abundance of close-to-zero days and nights we had this season.  

Winter has not lost its grip.  Like a weary traveler come home, it is not wishing to depart again so soon.  Frost outlined the blades of grass struggling out on the lawn.  Crystalline patterns were etched on car windows on my bike ride to school this morning.  Smoke is still coming from the chimney, and the sawdust is still accumulating outside the woodshed--all marks that winter still wishes to have it's say on our planting schedule.

Nonetheless, I have in the past few days put spinach, kale, mustard green, beet, and lettuce seeds in the ground in hopes that the soil has warmed enough in the sun for decent germination.  Always an experiment, this farming thing.  Tubers went in as well.  I dug up part of our patch of Jerusalem Artichokes (or "Sunchokes") and planted scores of their ginger-looking appendages in a few beds around the house.  Potatoes were planted just yesterday in random containers.  This year I have red, gold, and purple potatoes in addition, of course, to James' assorted stock of fingerlings and such.

And not to mention all of the cute little seedlings springing up under fluorescent lights indoors--the tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, a whole assortment of herbs and flowers, and so forth.  They look happy despite the still-cold outside temperatures.  I think they are delighted to be inside with the wood fire.  

There is some harvesting to do already, though only for edible wild plants.  Wild Garlic and Garlic Mustard, or "Jack-in-the-Hedge," as the Brits call it, has made its appearance in legions all through the woods surrounding the house.  Wild garlic is the oniony-looking stuff that springs up in grassy, chive-like patches.  Good tasting stuff!  But my favorite of the edible wilds has got to be the Jack-in-the-Hedge.  It's excellent mixed in with salads, put in stir-fries in the last minute of cooking, or made into a pesto.  I'll even munch on it raw when I'm meandering through the trees behind the house.  It's pretty unmistakable stuff, and it pops up everywhere--even in town.  I've included some pictures so that you can identify these things yourself.  As always with wild foraging, err on the side of caution, though the Wild Garlic and Jack-in-the-Hedge are easily identified and aren't to be confused with anything poisonous.  I also recommend getting a wild edibles book so you can identify other free-growing tasty foods.  By the way, Morel season is coming!  Best of luck out there, intrepid wild foodies...    

           Wild Garlic; it grows all over the place.

           Wild Garlic; it grows all over the place.

                                    Wild Garlic bulbs.

                                    Wild Garlic bulbs.