Monday 21 March 2011

Spring Ahoy!

Happy Spring equinox everyone and welcome to our spring week on the blog! We’ll be taking a look outside, exploring what’s coming up and celebrating the end of winter. Low Carbon cooks and growers will be checking out new green shoots and leaves, our wild earth reporters, toads and bees and the medicine of trees.

I’m really celebrating the end of winter, throwing out that hot water bottle and thermal gear and throwing open the windows. No more shivering! No more parsnips! There’s a fresh breeze out there this morning, primrose on the banks, blackbirds practising their arias, woodpeckers drumming the oak trees. Time to wake up early, stretch the body and walk out. In the Chinese five element system this is the season of wood and the warrior when the deep energies of winter start uncoiling and branching out. Its organ is the liver and its sense, the eyes.

So I’m sensing out the world beyond all those rigid squares and pixels on my computer screen, looking at the undulating earth shapes of trees, the way life is bursting out of wood everywhere and colours and scents flashing past: tortoiseshell butterfly wing, crimson bird feather, musty and sweet fragrance of gorse and box. The equinox is when the sun is straight ahead, day and night are balanced equally and the new astrological year begins with Aries the Ram. It’s a big planetary time (Did you see that gorgeous moon?)

Like most people my attention has been caught up in the cataclysmic events in Japan and it seems almost incorrect to be considering these small events in our own secure neighbourhoods. And yet the Japanese famously gather under cherry trees to welcome the Spring. And perhaps we could do no better than sit beneath the oriental blossom that graces our city streets and connect with them – the people of a fellow island nation. You can never underestimate the power of the heart.

My chief Spring medicine tree though would be the willow, specifically the goat willow, that old craggy fellow now bursting into gold along riverbanks and canals.

Willow is a big water tree and well-known for its properties to relax and make fluid everything that is crystallised and cramped within (the bark of white willow being the natural precursor to aspirin). It's hard to feel joyous and alive with a stiff and tense body. Hard to sit under this tree and not look up! and see the sunlight in its branches. When you do, listen and feel the thunderous buzz of bees, now coming out of hibernation and gathering pollen from trees everywhere.

Here are my fellow Transitioners, Mark, Nick and Eloise spring cleaning at our Sustainable Bungay Give and Take Day on Saturday. It’s time to shift and move and recycle old things on all levels! I’m not in the picture because I played truant and went to the woods for the first time in a long time, lay underneath hazel trees and checked out early violets and upcoming bluebells and watched a flock of goldfinches feeding on knapweed seeds that had been left uncut in a meadow. Afterwards I dug the garden and made myself an inner spring clean tea of cleavers, plantain, dandelion and angelica (all great for moving sluggish systems, especially the lymph).

On my way home I gathered a few wild leaves to toss into one of those robust and tangy salads Elena’s been talking about: bittercress and tansy, hawthorn and chickweed. Here are some green and growing tips from my garden. I’ll be taking some feisty alexander buds along to try out with my fellow Low Carbon Cooks too tomorrow. It’s a full-on week ahead, including Nicole Foss on Friday and the big TUC march on Saturday. I’ll be needing those greens!

Under the neighbourhood cherry plum; coastal gorse; Sustainable Bungay Give and Take crew and van; Japanese cherry at Castle Meadow, Norwich; garden tips of bronze fennel, salad burnet, lovage, hawthorn, dill, chickweed, tansy and cleavers


  1. Tansy in a salad; wow, that IS robust!

  2. I agree, tansy is for EXTREME foragers. Like rue in pasta a small leaf goes a long and bitter way! Can't quite deal with that ancient Spring cleanse recipe, tansy pudding. Anyone gone the long haul with that one?