Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Magic of Woodland Ways with Sweet Aunt Vi

A violet in the youth of primy nature,
Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting;
The perfume and suppliance of a minute;
No more.
Hamlet- Act I, Scene III
There are tiny alcoves scattered throughout the garden out front. I don’t think they were intentionally placed, that is directed by mere human hands. Rather these cozy nooks seem to have evolved, a natural trajectory of events coauthored by man and nature. There is a medium sized rock- stoic and dependable with a slender bleeding heart leaned over it, a creeping brocade of moss, lady’s mantle, and a few leggy ferns shielding a secret or two. Each character is an enchanted creature in a world held apart and I for the few moments that I gaze am welcomed denizen.
What I love most about these woodland hideaways is the sense of stumbling upon a moment held in abeyance, both young and fragile. The air and ground damp with dew. Everything absorbed by the silence. The plants too seem to have just emerged, green like juicy apples. Neither garden gnome nor faerie, I am nonetheless quite at home in this glad pocket where life springs forth.

This year to my delight, pincushions of violets from amethyst to palest pink have sprung. I can’t help thinking they would make pretty corsages for some wee folks and perhaps a few frogs too. With its heart shaped leaves and elusive scent, the wild violet is joyful ambassador communicating how powerful life is. After many arduous months of a New England winter, it is hard not to feel tender towards any tiny plant capable of sending up a shoot or two, let alone one which does so with such mirth. This miniature scene which is hard to pry myself away from is both marvelous and complete. It is a study in sufficiency.

Perhaps that is what has been at the root of my desire to eat more wild foods. It is about connecting to the untamed and vital of course, but more convincingly about seeing the whole. Rather than being perpetually on the cycle of filling empty hunger and desire on the treadmill of plenty. We could be moving into relationship with enough. As much as I was in love with the abundance of California, it was easy to take it for granted a little. And overindulge, all the time. Living with the dramatic change in seasons, one is made powerfully aware of the transient and the perishable. Looking at these prolific yet delicate flowers is another reminder. Close in, show cased, naturally one moves towards the slender edge of the moment which is potently alive and holds everything.

With the help of Euell Gibbons and Steve Brill on the sidelines to stoke my broadening curiosity, the garden has now become my outdoor pantry. Everything is fair game as I cast a wandering eye upon its borders. Thankfully the inhabitants are far too preoccupied bursting forth in springtime finery to even suspect what is on my mind. At this moment my attention is back to sweet Aunt Vi with her beguiling face and plentiful greenery. It is true that this plant packs a punch of ascorbic acid and Vit. A in its leaves and herbalists of yesteryear have lauded the virtues of this fine lady. Pluck a leaf and chew it up a bit, you’ll see that it tastes like young fresh spring. Wait a bit longer and soon you’ll see that the masticated bits get surprisingly slippery. It is this salicylic acid which helps to dissolve tumors and hardened tissue and resolve inflammatory issues within and without. Apparently even the easing of skin and reproductive cancers is on this gal’s resume. But as compelling as all of that hard working achievement is, I am more enamored with V. papilionacea’s purple winged petals and fluttering grace. The glee and magic of childhood discovery comes rushing back as I spend time in this diorama for one. While cuteness is something normally to be avoided, springtime fervor has hit and the imaginary tea set brought out. Youth and beauty should not be wasted only on the young!

Magic Violet Elixir feeds two medium sized gnomes: This is the kind of green spring soup that is so simple, delicious, and cheery- it will be an instant favorite. Once again approximate amounts for the ingredients, but it is infinitely tinkerable. The best thing of course is the color, bright and saturated. Should be served in tea cups, imaginary of course, are welcomed.

1 cup of frozen baby peas
1 garlic clove hastily chopped
3 sprigs of thyme, leaves stripped
Small bundle of chives, rough chopped
2 fistfuls of violet leaves
2 cups of water/vegetable/chicken stock
1 cup of rice milk
Salt and white pepper
Skinny tablespoon of butter
Violet blossoms

Directions: Heat up your water in a medium sized pot and when the water begins to stir, just before the boil, dump in the peas, garlic and thyme. Lower the temperature so that the ingredients don’t go into shock. After two or three minutes, dump in the chives and violet leaves and cook until well wilted. Add the salt, pepper and butter. At this point retrieve your trusty slotted spoon and transfer the cooked bits into a blender with about half a cup of the cooking liquid. Blitz up and slowly add the rice milk/dairy to the level of creaminess desired. Taste and add more stock/rice milk as desired and carefully pour into your small serving vessels. Garnish with violet petals. I actually preferred my elixir on the warm/room temperature side rather than too hot. The petals are a visual must. Be forewarned, imbibing the elixir makes one a little giddy.


Lucy said...

Last year, heart stolen by that purple, I made a salad of the leaves from, I think, Deborah Madison. It was so unexpectedly good.

Here's to spring tonics. May they all be so visually arresting!

Anonymous said...

Lucy lead me to you and I am as enchanted as you seem to be with your new garden pantry.
Your writing, ideas and recipes are just beautiful and magical.

Anonymous said...

Foraging and rooting, gazing and inhaling, that fecund eruption.... mmmmm, Spring. Set to the gentle euphony of Hyla Crucifer and his choral lusts. New England, yea.

Wild local foods, the best! Your writing and imagery, their equal!

Callipygia said...

Lucy, if I were more daring I'd go for the salad... I admit I wasn't as enthralled by "the goo".I should check out Ms. Madison but heard the Greens cookbook was quite fussy. Do you think?

Racheleats, Thanks for stopping by and from Rome, one of my favorite places! Pull up a chair...

Anonymous, unfortunately I never hear the peepers, I think the whip-poor-will around here demands center stage. Thanks for stopping by and enjoying!

Gattina said...

you are a spring fairy ;) with a magic wand simply pointing here and there, then ta-dah!
Calli, love this artwork as well.
I just failed my lecto-fermented ketchup, nothing wrong with the recipe (it was already smelling so good while I was combining the ingredients), because I forgot putting it in fridge after the 3rd day. Got to pay attention next time...

Callipygia said...

Gattina- Are you sure it went bad? Did it smell funky...did you dare try it? Because by that time, the healthy beasties are in it and preventing spoilage, at least in theory. I actually wanted to leave mine out longer to achieve more potency!

Gattina said...

that what I thought about leaving it out longer. It didn't smell bad, only had dots of mold on top. I should have used a shorter jar, the one I used was rather tall so the sauce filled up to half way only. not sure if it is the reason?

Callipygia said...

Gattina- I think it probably would have been fine to skim the mold off, especially if it smelled fine- but then again I eat kimchii...I probably should have included the fact that at temp above 74F, the process really starts happening faster. If it is warm, it could be stirred every day to prevent the mold. Better luck next time- wah!

Lucy said...

'Greens' is too fussy - truth be told, so is everything else she writes, but occasionally, just when I want to be wowed, she's who I head for.

Ketchup keeps getting better...