The Tenderest Parts

The cover crops are going strong, the fava beans especially, thick seafoam-colored stems and those flashy black and white legume flowers. Before the flowers turn to swollen bean pods, harvest some of the young leaves to make this week's featured recipe, a perfect, light, fulfilling salad that smacks of spring. These greens are not around for very long, but if you are not growing them yourself, you may be able to find a bundle of them at the local farmer's markets. Get 'em while you can! Like springtime herself, cool and fleeting, made of flowers and green growth and the tenderest parts, this is a salad to reflect the season we are living in, right now.

In the garden, growth is quickening. The overwintered kale begins to bolt, but the lettuce is lovely, heading up into bunches that look like huge, individual flowers. Peas crunch, right off the vine, and the allium greens are thick and lush. Asparagus points the way skyward. Chard is a rainbow, backlit by the clear, sharp sun, the midribs aglow against the dark green ruffled leaves. The native salvias are blooming, each one with its own particular fragrance and shade. Lupine and poppy, shooting star and dichlostema, all abloom. Manzanita and their tiny white honey-scented bells, bush poppy a cheerful yellow, mimulus orange and brilliant against the silver sky. Near the creek, nettles are shooting up, thick and strong; now is the time to harvest them for optimal texture, before they get old and woody. Everything is green and blooming and alive, each fluttering leaf and bloom a counterweight to the sorrow and gloom of the news cycle. We seek not just dinner in the garden, but refuge, too, a place to reset and heal, a place to feel that our actions matter and can make a positive difference. We turn to work in the garden when our hearts are light, and when they are heavy.

The woodchips and straw mulch that have covered the vegetable garden over the winter months are breaking down; we apply a fresh layer before the warming sun draws the moisture out. It's time to plant potatoes, hilled in soft soil, or layered with decomposing straw. It may also be a good time to harvest potatoes that have overwintered; it's always something of a sweet treasure hunt to pull the soil gently back and find the tubers, almost glowing, strangely clean, in the damp soil. New potatoes are another food of the moment, less starchy than a fully matured and cured spud, with tender, wispy skin and a high moisture content. Imagine them with herbs; dill and parsley, all the fragrant possibilities of spring. If this thought has you salivating, wait until you see the potatoes we have for sale down at the feed store; such a colorful selection this year, and all so beautifully blurbed and packaged. It's tempting to plant so many varieties! And if space allows, why not? A rainbow of roasted potatoes is a favorite meal, at any time of the year. We still don't regret planting almost 50 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes, way back at the start of the pandemic. In fact, we are still harvesting from those plantings, as it is nearly impossible to get every single potato when you harvest the crop, so some are always left to continue growing. The garden keeps on giving, in so many ways. May we give back, in balance, may we learn to tend the earth with the all the generosity and abundance that she gives us. May we, someday, learn to tend each other in the same way, a garden of people growing together, a whole world fed and full of flowers.

by Jessica Tunis