The Teacup Chronicles

Month: May, 2011

And the winner is….

Thank you so much to all of you who commented for the 100th post tea give-away. Your words really warmed my heart and it certainly is an incredible honor to know that people are out there reading and actually enjoying all these ramblings that I post into what often feels like the ethers! So thank you again and again – and not just for your comments on this occasion, but for each and every comment you have left. I am continually inspired and heartened by your thoughts and kind words, and I have learned so much through the knowledge you have shared with me here. Please do keep them coming!

Without further adieu, I have finally gotten round to the name drawing (albeit one day later than I promised, hopefully you’ll forgive me!). And the winner is:

Congratulations Nur! I will contact you shortly for your mailing address. For those of you who didn’t win this time around, I hope to offer more give-aways in the future – so no need to despair as there will be many other opportunities!

Many thanks and green blessings to you all!

XOXO Danielle

An early spring plant tour and tea giveaway

Lately I’m finding it harder than ever to get myself sitting inside at the computer to write. It’s just been so lovely this past week, that it takes nearly all my will-power to get myself to do anything other than wander around looking at things in a state of complete bewilderment and awe. It really is very dangerous, actually.  Yesterday I nearly fell into the ditch gazing up at sugar maple in full flower  (hopefully no one else witnessed that),  and then today I came very close to getting run over by a truck while photographing a dandelion! Oh the dangers of being an herbalist…

So for those of you who have already been through this honeymoon phase of spring, you shall have to bear with me.  I am spellbound and in a constant fluster of blissful agitation, afraid to close my eyes for a moment lest I should miss one of spring’s many charms.   It’s a force that can’t be reckoned with. And under the influence of such a force, I can hardly be expected to say anything sensible. So today you get photos.

For it does seem, in only the blink of an eye, that spring has worked its transformative magic over the landscape. Each day my jaw drops at the progress of the leaves and I gaze in complete astonishment as the glimmer of green makes its way up the mountainside nearly before my eyes:

People may argue that fall is the heyday for trees, but I might argue that spring is even more fantastic – though you have to look a little more closely to see:

Ash

Serviceberry

Choke cherry

Sugar maple

Red maple

Apple

Pussy willow

It’s easy, as you can see, to always being looking up with all these beautiful tree flowers to see. But looking down is just as rewarding with all the spring ephemerals to glance in the woodlands:

Trout Lily

Red Trillium

Painted trillium

And the lovely weedy wonders and cultivated flowers:

Coltsfoot

Periwinkle

The beloved dandelion

Daffodil

There you have it, and you can see why a person might not want to blink for the month of May. There is so much to see, and so little time to see it!!

On another note, this is my 100th post on The Teacup Chronicles!  It’s been such an amazing experience creating this blog, and I could never have imagined that through these 100 posts, I’d learn so much and meet so many lovely  people the world over.  I’ve decided to celebrate by giving away a canister of my NOURISH tea (a vitamin, mineral and antioxidant rich blend ) in the first ever Teacup Chronicles give-away as a thank you to my readers for all your wonderful support and heart warming comments. It’s one of my favorite spring drinks – green, revitalizing and deeply nourishing.

To enter the drawing, simply leave a comment on this post, and I’ll draw the names out of a hat one week from today. The can is actually a limited edition (hehe) as I’ve had to change my company name (a very long and uninteresting story about jumping through bureaucratic hoops). Anyway, my online etsy shop is still in the works after some unforeseen delays, and the second I’ve got it up and running, you’ll be the first to know.

Thank you for reading and happy spring!

Wild leek pesto

Nothing confirms the victory of spring over winter quite like the appearance of ramps (or wild leeks) in the woodlands. When I spot that first patch of glowing, lime-green leaves amongst the brown decay of leaves on the forest floor, I feel I can say with some confidence that winter is officially behind me (knock on wood, of course.) I am always overcome with the sense of victory as I hold up my first freshly dug fistful of the season, inhaling that delicious leeky pungency (like a cross between an onion and garlic). It is a prize hard-won after enduring months of hardships (snow, ice, -15 degree days), and the leeks are like my own personal holy grail.

Wild leeks, or ramps (Allium tricoccum) as they are also known, spot the hillsides throughout Eastern hardwood forests, spanning from Minnesota over and up through Maine. While they are present (and harvestable) in the woodlands year round, they are particularly beloved in spring, when they are one of the first wild edibles to greet our green thirsty eyes.  They can be identified by their smooth and elongated oval leaves, which are light green in color, and give off a delicious oniony fragrance that is unmistakable. The plants grow in dense stands from the floor of moist, open woodlands. Once you’ve found the leaves, you only have to dig down a little to reveal a smooth white bulb, sometimes tinged with a hint of red, which, with a little prodding, easily pulls up out the soil. Peel away any slimy outer layers and rinse off in a stream, and you can go home with only the worry of how you will possibly choose what application to use them in.

Like other members of the onion family, ramps are rich in the same sulfur compounds and flavanoids that confer anti-cancer benefits, boost immune function, and protect the cardiovascular system from oxidative stress. Indeed, leeks may actually be stronger in some of these effects than their cultivated counterparts, as wild plants often contain higher levels of antioxidant compounds due to the increased stress of their living situation.  Wild leeks are also extremely high in vitamins A and C, and contain good stores of minerals such as iron, selenium (a potent antioxidant) and chromium (necessary for blood sugar balance). Their pungent, spicy flavor is just the thing we require energetically in the spring, helping to stimulate and revitalize our sluggish systems after the cold weather and heavy foods of winter, while also protecting against the congesting effects of cool, damp spring weather.

Leeks are delicious additions to many spring dishes, pairing particularly well with eggs (ramp frittata anyone?) and of course making a natural companion to potatoes in the delectable potato leek soup, which is always a favorite. They can also be added to stir fries, roasted, grilled, added raw to salads or cooked into soups. This year, however,  I have found a new favorite application, which is pesto. Their oniony, garlicy goodness creates a sublime pesto, which, not for the faint hearted, packs a good deal of punch. Spread on breads, added to pasta or stirred into soups – the pesto allows one to easily infuse their meal with leeky goodness whenever the whim takes you. You can also make up a big batch, and freeze the pesto, ensuring that you can have leeks in your life at any time of year (that is, if you refrain from eating it all in a week, which has thus far been a tremendous challenge not to do).

Wild Leek Pesto

Makes 2 cups.

Note: I combine dandelion greens, another abundant and nutrient rich spring green with cleansing and digestion stimulating properties, which helps to cut down somewhat on the pungency factor. You could add any number of other spring greens, however – nettles, chickweed, or even non-wild spring greens like spinach or arugula. If you prefer a less pungent pesto, use only the leek leaves and save the bulbs for another application.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups loosely packed dandelion greens or other spring green
  • 3 cups loosely packed leeks and their greens
  • 1.5 cups oil (sunflower, olive oil, walnut oil, hemp oil, etc)
  • 1 cup toasted nuts (walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, etc)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan (optional)
  • juice of 1 large or 2 small-sized lemons
  • 1 -2 tsp salt, or to taste

Directions:

Place all ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth. Taste for seasonings, and adjust as necessary.