Snow is still on the ground here in Nova Scotia, but spring is revealing itself in lovely, subtle ways.
On the way home from Wentworth we drove through a thick swath of smoke, streaming westward across the highway.
Wild blueberry farmers follow a two-year crop management cycle, burning or mowing half the field each year, leaving the other half alone. They burn before spring really begins, when the land is relatively dry and the wind isn’t blowing.
The fire crept across the scratchy bushes, stopping where the bushes hit the hay fields. A farmer stood nearby, watching as nature cleansed her fields of insects and fungus.
We spent the past week in the Wentworth Valley, away from the urban grey of the city where signs of spring are harder to spot. In Wentworth it’s easier. The cold nights and warm days meant the sugar-maple sap was flowing. Sugar Moon Farm was on their fifth boil of the season. They were serving an all-day pancake breakfast in their cozy log cabin. Outside maple syrup was being poured over snow where it instantly turned into maple candy.
Over at Ski Wentworth the snow was softening. Patches of grass lined the half pipe. Our face masks came off and we folded them it into our pockets. We drank hot chocolate and cold pints on the deck in the sun.
Spring is coming, but here in NS it takes its slow, careful time. I’m choosing not to count the days. Instead, I’m trying to create a healthy, starting-fresh flow (in between pancakes and maple candy) to feign spring. It looks like this:
1. Bring hearty greens home from the store – kale, chard, whatever is available. Wash, dry and chop them. Put them in a big container, cover with a clean tea towel or a paper towel to absorb excess moisture and place big container in the fridge. Greens will last this way for up to a week. I put handfuls into smoothies, stir-fries or soups, or I steam them as they do at Heartwood.
2. Hit up the greens with flavour bombs. These are dressing I keep in the fridge and use on just about everything savoury. They add new life to those ingredients I’ve been eating ALL WINTER LONG.
I have two dressings on rotation right now.
First off, the Heartwood Basil Dressing. It makes a generous amount and a little goes a long way – 1 tablespoon of dressing per 4 cups loosely packed steamed greens (measured before steaming). The greens are great on their own, or serve them with roasted meat or fish, or spoon them onto a bowl of leftover bits (roasted sweet potatoes, brown rice, sauerkraut, sliced chicken, salmon… ) Whichever way is a big bowl of happiness that feels something like spring.
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup ume plum vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup packed fresh basil
Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor and and blend until smooth. Store for up to a week in a tightly sealed glass jar in the refrigerator. Dress the salad immediately before serving. Or, pop into Heartwood, if you can.
Next up, a slightly spicy Creamy Almond Dressing. It’s inspired by a recipe from Oh She Glows, but kicked up a bit with a few swirls of Sriracha.
- 1-2 garlic clove(s)
- 2-3 teaspoons finely grated ginger
- 3/4 cup almond butter
- 3-4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
- 3-4 teaspoons maple syrup
- sriracha, to taste
- a good grind of pepper and a big pinch sea salt
- 2-4 tablespoons water, as needed
Prepare the dressing by processing all ingredients in a mini processor. Store in a jar in the fridge until needed. Thin with water and give it a good shake if necessary. It will keep for a week or so.
Last night I tossed this dressing with shredded purple cabbage and grated carrot. This ‘slaw’ became part of a fish taco. The dressing is also great drizzled over roasted vegetables, brown rice or noodles, or use it as a vegetable dip.
Asparagus. Rhubarb. Fiddleheads. They’re coming, but you know, a watched pot never boils. Instead, just make a few sauces.