After the snowiest March I can recall, I’m kind of pinching myself. It’s April, right? Many years the forsythia and daffodils and cherry blossoms have disappeared already. But this season, the asparagus, the chives, the kale and spinach in my garden are just getting going.
I know I’m not alone when I say I couldn’t be more ready to feel the heat of the sun on my face and the warmth of the earth in my hands. I am itching to plant those tomato and eggplant and tomatillo babies that have been sprouting in my living room. I’m willing the peas to train themselves along their trellises, the onion bulbs to swell, the tiny heads of lettuce to grow big and floppy.
The strawberry plants, the raspberry canes, the oregano I thought I’d lost, they are all coming back to life. Every spring, I know what to expect and yet I’m always amazed when it happens.
And then, I’m impatient. This transformation from dormant to edible takes time. Especially this year, when I have eaten every last cut of meat from the freezer, every stored ziplock of tomatoes, corn, peppers, every local potato and butternut squash I had stashed in the basement. To eat local in the early spring might be the biggest challenge of all.
But we’re up for it, right? In truth, not only am I beyond tired of last fall’s stored carrots and turnips, I’m even bored of the non-local food I’ve been noshing from around the world. Berries shipped from California, mangoes from South America, avocados from Mexico. I am grateful to have them, don’t get me wrong. But I feel almost like the early American settlers who ravenously descended upon their nasturtiums after a barren winter, thrilled for the crunch of a fresh leaf. I am so ready to eat food with the vibrant taste and texture that comes only from very close to home.
So, here’s some inspiration, whether you’re heading to early farmers markets where you live or your trying to make dinner from your limited garden offerings….
First, there’s eggs.
Our chickens have been laying like champs the last few weeks, even through the spring snow and bone-chilling rain. It’s the light that’s egging them on (ha!) and there have been weeks recently when we’re collecting a dozen eggs every three days. A few of my favorite egg recipes: Quiche is a go-to. But try this Spinach Swiss Soufflé (it’s easier than you think) for a change of pace. If you have some sweet potatoes hanging around, this Sweet Potato Hash is a nice base for some fried eggs. And don’t forget egg salad. Here are three ways to spice it up.
Then there’s greens.
We do have spinach and kale and some tiny heads of lettuce growing strong in our garden, plus a bit of Swiss chard. So there’s salad, of course. And sautéed kale and kale chips. I just made this slaw with equal parts kale ribbons from the garden and red cabbage from the store. I recently stirred up a batch of Avocado Cilantro Lime Dressing, swapping out the cilantro for garden chives.
There are also plenty of dandelions popping up in my yard. Time to weed and eat local at the same time. Here’s a primer for how to eat dandelion greens, flowers, even roots!
Don’t forget the herbs.
It feels hard to make dinner out of a few stalks of rosemary and a green onion top or two. But when stirred together with a little rice or cheese, it’s surprising what the lowly herb can do. Try topping your pizza with a medley of mushrooms and herbs. Or add your herbs to these fettuccini or orzo recipes. Stir fresh herbs into omelettes. And be sure to snip some baby oregano or the first leaves of mint onto any salads you’re pulling together.
Also, take heart. This is just the beginning. Think how soon we’ll have strawberries and baby potatoes, then zucchini and tomatoes and ahh … the bounty of summer will be here.
Before I go, I want to share this wonderful book I’ve discovered. It’s The Seasons on Henry’s Farm: A Year of Food and Life on a Sustainable Farm and I honestly can’t put it down. It’s a month-by-month telling of the everyday on a farm in Indiana. Writer Terra Brockman reminds just how punishing it can be to make your living farming but also how rooted and miraculous and fulfilling. As you’re waiting for this growing season to take off, you might find this is just what you’re craving.