A few brave, vibrant purple and yellow pansies flowered all winter, taking brief breaks only during the occasional deep cold snaps, but now a full company of blooms cheerily greets visitors along our main walk. They’ve recently been joined elsewhere by honeyberry, a handful of strawberry, cherry and plum blossoms, with currants, gooseberries and blueberries close on their heels.
Nestled here and there throughout the property, companion plants are greening and growing — yarrow, valerian, rue, southernwood, pyrethrum, sage, mint, oregano, hyssop, lemon balm, pennyroyal and tansy. Brushing against their fragrant leaves makes weeding almost a joy.
Snap peas are up; onions, lettuce and spring cole crops are in; seeds for carrots, parsnips, beets and Swiss chard are sown. Inside under lights on heated mats are tomatoes, eggplant and a wide variety of peppers. This year, we’re sampling a mix of hot peppers along with our standard sweet, stuffing and frying options.
We also have several dozen exotic Asian greens and mustards on tap, courtesy of a friend who shared seeds. Many are at their best in the traditional East Asian “hot pot” — a simmering pot of stock at the center of the dining table into which vegetables, mushrooms, dumplings, tofu and meats are placed and cooked. That same friend introduced us to this simple, but delicious meal. We can’t wait to try it at home with our own fresh-picked greens.
Next up will be sowing Three Sisters mounds in the backyard — with popcorn, winter squash and pole beans. In addition to the Tom Thumb popcorn we’ve grown to love, we’re adding a calico variety.
And, we’re trying marina di chioggia, a blue-green, bumpy skinned “sea pumpkin” native to the Italian coast near Venice that’s reputed to have rich, dry flesh. One catalog described how thick slices are grilled with olive oil and sold by street vendors.
Another treat we’re impatient to try — but we’ll probably have to wait until the horses go to the post for the Breeders’ Cup.