This picture shows what the field by my house looked like 4 days after the official start of spring. As Henry Van Dyke said, “The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month.” I am hoping that by a month from now, I will be seeing only grass, and no snow!
Although this wintry, snowy view greets me at my windows and my doors, I am keeping a sharp eye out for anything that says “Spring!”
The birds are not deterred by the snow and are calling out their mating songs. Even the redwing blackbird is back in town, I can hear his cry. Cardinals are thinking reproduction, robins are rife, and the sparrows and chickadees are just plain excited.
The trees and shrubs also know it is spring. Examining twigs and branches closely, or observing the tree tops, will show the swelling of buds. You can see a halo of gold around the weeping willows and a blush of pink at the tops of the maples.
Buds have been enlarging for a couple of weeks now. Walking in Cambridge recently I was captivated with the bushes that had various sizes and shapes of buds. They obviously are not at all impressed by the snow! There was a largish witch hazel with about one-quarter of its branches lined in vibrant yellow blooms, which just made my heart sing.
What I am waiting for is dandylions and chickweed and speedwell and the tiny cresses (in the mustard family) that pop up early in the spring, or even late winter in other, milder, years. I am eager to see the particular blue of the speedwell, and to start nibbling on dandylion leaves and the tiny cresses. My neighborhood greenhouse is providing a few chickweed plants, but I want to see them in my garden, intermingling with the speedwell.
Soon enough, then, the violets will start to put out their leaves and their delicate flowers, which I will happily pick to make syrups and cordials. In honor of spring, below are two recipes that make use of the common wild violet that pops up all over New England lawns and gardens (sometimes to the chagrin of gardeners and lawn-lovers)
Happy Spring! (whenever it arrives…)
Sweet Aunt Vi
1 cup packed violet blossoms
¼ cup water
Juice of 1 organic lemon
2 ½ cups organic sugar or raw honey
Make a thick paste of the violet blossoms, lemon juice, and water in your blender or food processor, or with a mortar and pestle. Blend in your sweetener very, very well. Store very cold, the freezer is fine and will keep it indefinitely.
Use ¼ teaspoon at a time, every hour or so, as needed, to help ease coughs, constipation, headaches, and grief.
I usually make half this recipe and find it sufficient for myself as a single person.
This recipe is from Wise Woman Herbal: Healing Wise by Susun Weed, Ash Tree Publishing, 1989.
Split Pea Soup with Violet Leaves
½ cup dried split peas
4 cups water plus ½ cup water
1 cup fresh violet leaves
Olive oil or lard
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Sour cream (optional)
Soak peas overnight, drain, then add water and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer until mushy soft. In separate pot, cook violet leaves in ½ cup water until they are very soft. Put in blender or food processor and blend into a slurry. Add to pot of cooked peas.
In a frying pan, put 2 to 4 tablespoons of good olive oil or lard, add onions and garlic and cook until nicely softened. Add to pea and violet leaf mix. Reheat until nice and hot.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream if you like!