Sunday, April 05, 2009

Preserving the Seasons: April, Week 1

By the time April arrives, even in northern Ohio we feel fairly certain that Winter has loosed its icy grip. We may still quote the local saying "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute" in acknowledgement of April's fickleness. We may watch fervently to see if the old adage "snow three times after the forsythia blooms" holds true, but we know deep down that even when the snow does fly in April, it will be of the wet, shortlasting variety, blanketing the ground for but a day.

No, once the time change occurs and Spring officially arrives and we get through the potentially crazy weather on April Fools' Day, we know that we'll start to see more sunshine and feel a little more warmth in the world around us.

With that light and heat comes a refreshing change in our surroundings: the earth takes on a hundred different shades of green, from emerald grass to dusky verdant tulip leaves to chartreuse hints speckled among the tree branches. And layered on top of all those lush shades we find the traditional spring blooms, from golden daffodils and plummy violets to creamy dogwoods and blushing apple blossoms. Forget the frills and furbelows of your favorite Easter dress or the pastels found in your Easter basket -- Nature brings us the real deal, a world alive with color!

After months of short days, dreary skies, and feeling chilled to the bone, we bask in the glory of Spring, allowing ourselves to be dazzled and temporarily blinded by a world reborn. In the midst of all the unpredictable weather April brings, we can hold on to the promise of hope and joy and warm days once again.

For those of us who try to eat seasonally, April can be a month both of longing and of fulfilled desire. After eating from the freezer and the pantry and the root cellar for months, surviving on a diet that eventually seems monotonous, we see all the greens coloring the world outside and start to salivate, dreaming of fresh salads, tonic herbs, and tender asparagus. And yet, there's still plenty of preserved food to eat (at least there is in my kitchen!), food that by now seems mushy and dull and even unappetizing in the face of such freshness.

What to do, what to do? I don't know about you, but I'm trying to forge ahead as best I can, cleaning out a jar or two (more if I can) and a few bags of vegetables from the freezer each week, but even I find I occasionally have to give in and eat something fresh. If I can forage wild greens, I'm ever so happy, but otherwise, I will occasionally eat store-bought greens just until I can get fresh locally-grown ones. (If I don't, I can tell that I'm not getting a good enough nutritional balance in my meals.)

In addition, I'm gearing up for this year's garden season. I headed out to the garden around noon yesterday to plant the first seeds since the Absent-Minded Professor had kindly turned over the garden beds for me. I sowed rows of spinach, lettuce, radishes, carrots, scallions, chard, and two kinds of peas, all in the hopes of having something fresh from the garden to eat even by the end of this month and into next.

While there, I checked on the growth of the garlic I planted last fall, and both rows look impressive! Maybe soon I'll head out to find the scapes curling up from the ground, offering a bit of that garlic taste before this year's harvest later in the season.

I know that local farmers are already starting this year's crops, whether under grow lights, in the greenhouse, or even in the fields. With any luck, they might start seeing some early harvests fairly soon, too. And whether it happens yet this month or early next, I can't wait for the fresh, pencil-thin, tender asparagus that I know a couple of people will have on offer.

Certainly we won't be able to eat complete weekly meals from what might be harvested this month, and there may not be enough yet for preservation, but the work begins now for this coming season, either in your own garden or in tracking down what will be offered at local farms and farmers' markets. Start planning now!

We're not fully into the growing season yet, but fresh food is coming. Soon!

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At 4/07/2009 12:12 PM, Blogger Tara said...

What a beautiful and hopeful post! Almost enough to offset the swirling snow outside my office window...

At 4/07/2009 12:28 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Can you tell I wrote it in the midst of sunshine this past weekend? Yes, the snow is still sticking a bit around here today, too --- I'm trying to think of it as slow watering in the garden.

At 4/09/2009 9:43 PM, Anonymous Janet said...

how exciting to see a new season about to begin. I'm MORE than ready!

At 4/10/2009 6:59 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Aaaaaaaa-MEN, Janet!


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