Like little sorcerers reborn in captivity, daffodils’ sweet yellow faces start the pre-spring parade of beautiful, once a year blooming flowers, trees and shrubs seen all over the Alhambra and Diablo valleys. Primroses share the lead in shaking off a bleak winter landscape.
That sentence would make a lot more sense if we were living in Chicago or back east somewhere, but we do get a little bit of winter. Just enough frost and cold to trick chill bulbs and fruit trees, coaxing abundant harvests and blooms. Wild flowers thrill our senses as they decorate and contrast with chartreuse hillsides and local creeks. They do double duty, attracting bees out of their lazy cool weather patterns, revving up pollination and resulting in bewildering masses of maroon, plum, snowy and bright yellow blossoms, to name but a few shades of Mother Earth's palette.
Also abundant in the creeks and shady spots are massive amounts of miner's lettuce for the adventurous salad eater. Lilacs are budding, with fragrant promises of childhood memories in every bouquet. Camellias also bring spring beauty and a smile to your face every time you spot a big bush.
We are fortunate in our area. We enjoy marvelous wild and domestic spring blooming flowers and are exposed to an intoxicating amount of fresh spring produce as we devour flowers with our other senses.
Dowdy but excellent winter staples cauliflower, broccoli and bok choy are on hand as is green garlic, waltzing into the farmers markets. Green garlic is immature garlic resembling green onions in shape, size and stature. But the differences lie not only in flavor but scallions have a hollow green leaf while baby garlic has a flat leaf shaped in a starched V. Green garlic is used for everything you would use regular garlic for but eases up on the volatility of heat. The flavor is lighter so the entire stalk from white to green can be used in raw or cooked items.
Also in the very near future comes the beloved and long awaited asparagus, soul mate to green garlic. Alas, the garlic does grow up so the season lasts but a month or two and then we are back on the bulb. You will not find green garlic at the grocery store or produce market until buyers wise up and get on the bandwagon. It's pretty much available only in a farmers market. I will continue my weekly trek to the farmers market for the goods we are so very fortunate to have growing in Northern California.
Green Garlic Sautéed with Mushrooms and Gai Lan (Chinese Broccoli)
3 stalks of green garlic, sliced thin
1 bunch of Gai Lan, sliced thin
½ pound of cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and ground pepper to taste
Heat a large skillet and add olive oil. Heat for a few seconds and add the green garlic. Sauté for a minute or two and add the broccoli and mushrooms. Let cook until the Gai Lan is bright green and season with salt and pepper. Makes four generous portions.