Spring is almost here, but the tail end of winter is still with us; frost forecast for some of the country at the weekedn,a nd it's easy to get lulled into a false sense of security when the sun shines out there!
Although there is n't much fresh green stuff to be had from the garden - parsley, a couple of other herbs, the beginnings of the wild garlic/tri-cornered leek - it's nice to have a fresh tasting salad sometimes to add variety to the table. This is one of my favourites at any time of the year, but especially about now. It's easy and quick to prepare, very juicy with a nice crunch from the nuts and not too expensive.
Carrot and apple salad
Per person: 1 large carrot, one apple, a few pine nut kernels. Grate the carrot and apple into a bowl - I leave the skins on; if not organic, give a good scrub first. Add the oine nuts and mix well. That's it!
Aanother simple joy is the spring flowers that appear - all of them, I love them all. My very favourite, just coming on now, is the Snakeshead fritillary (fritillaria meleagris). When I was at college in Paisley, I spent a lot of time in Glasgow, and became interested in the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh - the tearooms, art school and Hill House in Helensborough - I visited them all! I love the stylised patterns and flowing lines, especially the flowers in his art. I used to buy postcards of his work to put up in my college bedroom, and my favourite one then was the snakeshead fritillary study he did - simple, perfect, capturing the essence of this unassuming little flower. If ever there was a flower put on thsi earth with a view to be painted, this is it! I was fascinated by this flower - its square chequerboard pattern, the defined lines between the dark purple and greeny creamy white - surely no such flower could exist in nature, with the straight lines and geometry of the patterned flowerhead? Knowing very very little about gardening at that time, let alone spring bulbs and flowers, I came to teh conclusion that this was a design out of his head, a made up one to fit exactly into his style of work.
many years later, when I got my first garden, we lived in a small village that had its own garden centre. I used to spend a lot of time up there in my lunch hours when I worked in a nearby office. Suddenly, there it was. Growing - in a pot. The fabled (in my mind) snakeshead fritillary. It existed. I could buy it. I could have it in my own garden.I have had a lot of tgardening successes and moments since then, but nothing will ever match the complete thrill I got from finding that little pot of gorgeousness! For one pound and twenty nine pence, I could take that pot home and have it for my very self.
I've grown them ever since, both the chequered ones and the creamy white ones, but they don't do well in my heavy clay soil here, so I tend to put them in pots. I have tried many times from the dry bulbs, but am usually disappointed in the no-show. These bulbs can be quite old and stale, with no life left in them when they reach your potting bench - better to buy a few "in the green" to give them the best chance. I bought a couple of small pots at the weekend, and the first heads are beginning to colour up now; they'll go on the stand outside the kitchen window where I can see them whilst working int he kitchen, then when the flowers are spent, they'll get tucked into a little corner I have in mind to take their chance.