Monday, May 31, 2021

Cottage in the mist

Within a week of leaving this cottage in Maine last September I had booked another week, for this spring. We had no idea what the travel situation would be, whether we'd be vaccinated, or what the world would look like. But we knew we wanted to come back.

We have walked in wet woods and found glorious wildflowers. I have never seen lady's slipper orchids in their natural habitat, before. 

And bluebead lilies covering the mossy forest floor.

I had been spotting carpets of bunchberries from the car as we drove north, and on our first hike they kept us company all the way. The tiniest of dogwoods.

The cottage has a natural hedge separating it from the dramatically rising and falling tide. In it grow bayberry, blueberry and native black cherry. The bayberry is at that deliciously tender stage where it quickly perfumes a drink. 

So that is what it did. 


Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Of hayfever and wild lilacs

The middle of May and the evenings stay lighter and lighter.  This is 7.38pm. The chicken on the grill has been seasoned with berbere, an East African spice mix that I first met when I waitressed at Cafe Adulis in New Haven, many years ago. The owners were Eritrean. My tips were stuffed into an envelope at home and once a month I walked several blocks and deposited them. And then I paid the rent. It was a hard time but I learned independence, met good people, and grew to love this potent blend of chiles, cinnamon and cardamom (and a few other things, too!).

Back to now. The Frenchman and I drove home from the Catskills with these bunches of feral lilac. They smelled wonderful and also gave us the worst hayfever attacks we have ever experienced. So they were banished to the stone table. But everything is in bloom - meaning trees and grasses - and producing pollen, and out on the terrace we can hear people sneezing, like a spring percussion.

The lilac flowers are being turned into a May wine to be served at a forage picnic this weekend (a bachelorette walk for a group of friends), and the rest will be the finishing, perfumed touch for a May vermouth. All the flavors of May, minus the sneezes.



NYBG, 27 May - Spring Edible Plant Walk

Alley Pond Park, 23 June - Midsummer Edible Plant Stroll

Monday, May 3, 2021

May Day

On Saturday we walked in the Manhattan woods. It was May Day. A lovely group of people. A picnic in my backpack.

Joan is a founding member of my forage walks, and has been following my erratic botanical routes over hill and through dale since 2014. At last she was rewarded appropriately (at least in foraging terms): morels! And she ate them for supper in a cream sauce, atop a croissant. My kind of people. We kept spotting this elusive springtime mushroom, and our timing could not have been more lucky. Enough for everyone. In New York City. Whaddayagonnado?

The fleeting green intensity of mid-spring still surprises me. Just two months after snow cover and skeleton trees.

After our walk we picnicked. Deviled spring eggs; ramp leaf, sumac and lamb meatballs (unusually - most picnics tend towards vegan or vegetarian, depending on peoples' preferences) with garlic mustard and ramp leaf dipping sauce; lavash stuffed with ground elder and spicebush leaves; carrot and Japanese knotweed tartlets in mugwort pastry cases; and lemon-spicebush tarts with strawberries, for dessert.

Later, the Frenchman and I sipped drinks on the terrace. It is our best time of day.

Supper salad: highly unseasonal tomatoes (I cracked, it happens), with ditto cucumbers. But at least those were tossed with slivered ramp leaves and common milkweed vinegar! Kept company by scoops of dense and lemony labneh.

The terrace, these May evenings, is caught by light from the western sun.

And it is still light when we sit down to eat, sometime around or after 8pm. Above us, the newly-returned chimney swifts execute aerial maneuvers and are gathering in number. First one, then three, now six. Where do they nest? We don't know.

But we nest here. Even if we have not flown south in a long time.