"It's one of those light and dark days", the child remarks, staring at the cloudy sky. "Light and dark days" is a kind of family term we use to describe weather like we've had lately, a childlike appreciation of the way the sky is bright and dark with clouds at the same time. Those days when the sun shines while rain is falling, a place where rainbows are born, and mud puddles reflect the sky, and it's difficult to decide whether to pull on a hat or take off a sweatshirt. Light and dark days, the dizzy buzz of spring flowers and the gathering clouds. There's an edge in these days, a chill that makes us stoke the fire in the wood stove, or drives us outside to work or walk or wander through the garden, making mental lists of all that is to be done, or even, gasp, completing the tasks themselves. There's mulch to be spread, sealing the moisture of the recent rains in the soil. There's weeds to pull, and invasive grasses, piled in berms to decompose in situ. Too late now to prevent the seeds of many weeds from setting; the best we can do is to concentrate the seeds in one area, and hope to pull them sooner next year. Bachelor buttons that reseeded last year are opening their first flowers, and the scabiosa, somewhere between weed and wanted, is popping up in drifts throughout the garden. The black ones (well, really they are a rich maroon) are especially prized. An entirely accidental vignette delighted the eye last week in the garden; bright blue of bachelor buttons and borage and salvia sagitatta, a peachy alstromeria and peachier salvia greggii, all interwoven with a gray, ferny artemesia, and dark pops of the reseeded black scabiosa: a perfect spring palate. Once we pulled the grasses out from between the young plants, the effect was especially striking. Colors good enough to eat, but these are a feast for the eye alone, except that sometimes we sprinkle the blue cucumber-tasting flowers of borage on salads or in cocktails, just for fun.
We're all about eating colors lately, noticing that the recipes we have chosen are rich in colors and antioxidants lately. This week's featured recipe is no exception to this new springtime rule; the fermented radishes are gorgeous and bright when they are first submerged in brine, but as they ferment, their pigment permeates the brine and even the center of the radish, so that the whole jar is eventually a pale rose color, like an unopened bud of some intricate David Austin cultivar. We love to remind our gut and our palate of possibilities; the world is made up of such a diversity of flavor and color, it seems bizarre, sometimes, how much white flour and dairy the average American consumes, while a riot of nuance and nutrition is glowing and growing, right out of the surface of the earth. To be fair, sourdough toast is undoubtably a comfort food par excellence, but there are other fish in the culinary sea, so to speak...we're enjoying the last of the mâche from the garden, and of course the rainbow of chard and kale, and the bright fat scimitars of peas, and the collage of lettuce leaf shapes, textures, and colors. If only roses tasted as sweet as they smell! The roses are just beginning to hint at the overwhelming abundance of blooms that early summer brings.
Down at the nursery, at the Feed and Farm, we are drinking in rainbows, too. Not just the ones that arched over the redwoods in a break between drizzle and sun, but the blooming plants of every color that line the nursery shelves, and the bright pottery that complements them, too; the place is looking fresh and springy and lively with new deliveries. It's a great time of year to get plants in the ground, while the weather is mild, and the angle of the sun is not too steep. It's also a great time to repot houseplants and other pot-bound beauties, to set them up for a summer of growth in nutritious soil. I like to reward myself for spring cleaning with some new pots for the houseplants (OK, OK, and maybe some new plants, too).
Bringing the rainbows inside, on these light and dark days, while a fire burns in the wood stove, while the sun shines and the rain falls and the world is green and full of possibility.
By Jessica Tunis