Today the first flower of the season bloomed in my garden, a solitary crocus soon to be followed (hopefully, if the squirrels didn’t get the rest) by many more of its cousins.
From my window the garden still looks brown and barren with just a few splotches of green here and there, but that crocus drew me outside with it’s cheery yellow-orange. This is the time of year when us gardeners are to be seen bent over at the waist inspecting every patch of earth for signs of life. I was pleased to note that the yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is back, as well as my tarragon and chives. The daylily shoots are only about three inches high right now. Another two inches of growth and they’ll be excellent in a stir-fry (we’re talking about Hemerocallis fulva here–other lilies and similar-looking shoots are toxic and should be avoided. Know your plant ID before you turn it into lunch!).
Uninvited but not entirely unwelcome is garlic mustard (Alliaria esculente). Garlic mustard is an invasive biennial brought over from Europe and currently taking over our city parks (and my garden). It isÂ delicious at this time of year as a salad green. In the mustard family, it blends well with milder early spring greens such as chickweed (Stellaria media). Once the weather warms up it turns bitter, but by then there will be lettuce available again at the farmers markets.
One of the things I love about foraging is that it fills in the blanks on the agricultural calendar. I’ll be picking garlic mustard and chickweed and other wild edibles from now until the first of the domestic crops appear in my garden and at the farmers markets. The wildlings go into a brief lull around that time, but that’s fine because by then I’ll be busy with the farmers’ crops.