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Spring Forage

March 11, 2010

Wild onions are afoot

Warm weather brought out a number of Spring firsts. An unusual cooing and peeping from the sky yielded a view of the first pair of fish hawks, or osprey, we’ve seen on the Cape this season. I think they are early in their return, as I can’t recall seeing them at this time of year before. A walk through the swamp netted a big fat zero in deer tracks or droppings. I don’t know where that doe and her two little ones went, but they haven’t been hanging around in our swamp anymore. Emerging from the high bush blueberry and arrowwood, I found the first adult deer tick crawling up my pant leg. I might have to re-think those picnics on the warm grass in our yard.

It was the wild onions that provided my most favorite Spring first. We haven’t gathered anything from the wild landscape for quite some time, so I was tickled to stumble across a bushy growth of Cape Cod chives. These wild onions have a pronounced garlicky flavor when eaten by the handful, but they dress a baked potato like nobody’s business. I don’t know why I didn’t notice them before, maybe my negligence had something to do with the excessive amount of crappy weather we’ve seen in past weeks. But if April showers bring May flowers, February Nor’ Easters apparently bring Spring onions. They are more than just budding offerings of the eat-your-view Spring landscape. Rather, they are fully erupted bold and green and in-your-face denizens of roadsides and woodlots and nasty little edges of yards. They simply scream “EAT ME” from every corner of town.

Eat them we did, first in the woods, and later on the aforementioned potatoes. When my older child was a few years old, she found them tempting her from the land around her sandbox, and she would dig them up and brush off the dirt and eat the intense-flavored little onion bulbs. What breath she had. It seems in our lifestyle, crazy breath is just a given, which makes me wonder if the pine needle toothbrushes the Eastern Woodland Indians purportedly preferred might be the natural solution. I’ll get back to you on that one.

I’m lucky to have friends that don’t shy away from the rich flavors of our habitat. Bluefish, venison, wild duck, clams, cranberries – we have our fair share of treats for the ballsy palate. I do find it interesting that the kids, introduced to these flavors in their environment as a natural extension of our activities, show no aversion to these strong-flavored foods. A couple of friends spied what I was gathering and came to get in on the action. If they were in milk, we would probably taste the chives twice, but, as it was, they haven’t freshened, so we enjoyed the chives together without another thought.

Rya takes a nibble

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