Spring at 6,512 feet is like taking Amtrak rather than an airplane to your destination.
It's a slow, pleasing journey with plenty of station stops at which to peer out a window and notice the apricot
blossoms glowing like lights being switched on all over the county.
You could even take a nap - for three days - and barely miss anything. In fact, I've been milling around the garden,where pea, lettuce and carrot seeds were pushed into the soil quite a while ago, humming a little tune that could be
translated as hellooooo? Where is everyone?"
Every night I garnish our meals with the singular clump of chives fountaining up from the ground and repeat with
annoying good cheer, Isn't it great to be eating right from our garden?"
And it is. And though my California relatives have been feasting on local strawberries for weeks now, I like the
doddering pace of a mountain spring. This seasonal unfolding is just the speed my mothering-addled mind can keep up
Though Col is an enthusiastic garden assistant, all this bare soil is at least as exciting as a shiny, August-pulled
carrot. He's currently dabbling in the lesser known dirt-arts: Andy Goldsworthy-esque mud mandalas, adobe bricks baking
on frisbees in the sun, and tunnels dug exclusively for earthworms.
Col was recently spotted plucking dandelion leaves from our lawn for a dinner salad. (Lawn" being a loose term
connoting a few sprigs of grass gasping for air within a thatch of dandelions, mallow and clover).
My parents, who were babysitting, said Dandelions? No, Col, no one eats dandelions." Even Rose, still untrained, said
Yuck. We not going to eat dem, Coley."
But my 5-year-old son, bless his grass-stained knees, persisted amidst the snickers and protests. He tore the jagged
leaves from the lawn" and floated them into a bucket repurposed from the sandbox. When I returned, Col presented me
with his foraged salad-fixings and my heart chimed like a clock tower bell stuck on midnight.
Col doesn't realize that dandelion greens are chock full of potassium, iron, Vitamin A, B and C, or that they have more
calcium, cup for cup, than milk.
He may not know that our silky garden lettuce won't be harvestable until late May, while dandelions are the
scurvy-busting, bumper crop of early spring. But there's no doubt he's been paying attention to the ways of this
family, noticing that dinner sometimes comes with a side of weeds.
And my goodness, dandelions are free! Planted by the wind, rain and sun, all you do is show up with your scissors. And
eating dandelions is not as radical as you think: They go for $2.50 per bunch at Whole Foods.
We like them raw with a not-so-dainty smothering of salad dressing, but you can
enjoy dandelions as you do cooked spinach - in soups, lasagna and casseroles.
The leaves are mildest
before flowering. If you're not inclined to pick your own, I know a boy who hires out for a good rate.
Reach Rachel Turiel at email@example.com.
Check out her blog at 6512andgrowing.wordpress.com.