Is It Spring Yet?

There is a vintage clothes shop across the street that has a sign they change four times a year. It tolls the seasons for me, and today it said:

beacons-sign-spring.jpg

Today’s weather here was an “unseasonable” 63F degrees. I’m not sure what seasonable actually is anymore. Tomorrow we’re supposed to drop back down to 20F. Anyway, today felt like Spring, even though that season is still far in the distance according to the calendar. The balmy temps lured me away from my writing assignment at the computer to do a little garden clean up. As I was pruning back the dead stalks of last year’s perennial herbs I noticed that my garlic chives are back up. So are a lot of clumps of wild field garlic (Allium vineale) that somehow found their way into my garden.

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The field garlic made me laugh because last year I was so paranoid about running out of garlic that I grew it and got it from my CSA farmer and bought a stockpile at the farmers markets. If I’d thought I would run out of garlic I would have added it to my exemptions in The Rules because I really don’t want to imagine cooking without it. But I should have remembered that field garlic is widespread here from fall through spring. After that, garlic scapes show up at the farmers markets, quickly followed by the summer crop of the heads of garlic we are all used to. Not that I’m out of “regular” garlic yet, but it’s nice to know that I have back up options.

Forager’s Factoid: there are poisonous lookalikes to field garlic, but there is also a surefire way to know you’re safe: Everything that smells like garlic or onions is edible. The poisonous lookalikes have no scent at all.

Here is another herb, chervil, that has survived our erratic winter weather this year, including having snow piled on it and occasional single digit nights.

chervil.jpgChervil is a cold hardy annual that will bolt and go to seed once the weather really warms up. It shows up in lots of French recipes because it is one of the four herbs in the classic Fines Herbes blend (tarragon, parsley, and chives are the others). You’ll rarely see chervil sprigs for sale alongside its relative, parsley, because it is so fragile that it wilts and dries out soon after harvesting. I am grateful something so delicate looking is also so cold hardy because I’ve been picking it all winter. This is a great plant for city dwellers to grow because it only takes a month from seed to first harvest, and it doesn’t need or even like full sun.

I just remembered that I haven’t dug up any of my Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) yet. They are much tastier after a frost and I usually dig them up in January whenever the soil isn’t frozen. Does our mild winter mean they won’t be as sweet? Only one way to find out.

Other random updates: I am officially past the halfway point of The 250.

Not sure what this is about? Read Getting Ready for the 250-Mile Diet and The Rules

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2 responses to “Is It Spring Yet?”

  1. Miriam says:

    Leda, I suffer from the same fear of going without garlic. There must be a Latin name for this ailment. If not, I’ll make one up: um – disalliumphobia?! Every year come April, I’m at the local shuk buying 10 kg. of green garlic to dry. I know some will sprout and go to waste by the next spring, but 10 kg. usually sees me through a year. What would we do with garlic? I’m glad you still have plenty of it.

    Your post vividly brought brought back memories of walks I’ve taken to collect field garlic in the springtime. Thank you for that.

    Miriam

  2. acmeplant says:

    I almost bought a pack of chervil seeds on Saturday and now I wish I had! The next time I’m at a garden center, I’ll pick up a package.

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