It must be spring in the corner of our hearts. I can smell the budding dream of a green, green April nudging its way through this tortuous, endless winter. Here, there, and everywhere – the proliferation of brassicas remind me of the season that never seems to end. My belly grows fatigued with a waning love for these familiars.
Perhaps it is this place that is making me restless. I find I’m at my best when I am away from it all, this city and its invisible enemy, its class struggles. A few hours on that winding route up the coast is where I find my escape, where I can smell the air that comes moving across that wide swath of the uninhabited Pacific. There, I can step on earthen paths, and see the struggle of plants creeping its way towards that oceanic edge. My favorite stretch of beach is around Fort Bragg. I remembered the place as Blackberry Heaven. Not this winter. The blackberry brambles have been stoically mowed down – completely removed to make way for native plants. Even in such complete annihilation and barren soil, some invasive, wild onions sprang up to stake their home. They grow cloistered in the shadows of a few short bushes, flowering with bell shaped blooms that wave in the sunny, salty wind. I felt a tinge of guilt in rallying for their cause. I know their invasive nature makes us natural enemies in this state, but I am always relieved to find their presence. If I was starved I could eat them roasted on a beach fire, salted with a few strands of freshly picked seaweed as the moon dips itself into the deadly, cold sea. I can stare at those sparkling waters forever. Perhaps my inability to swim makes the dangers of an icy bath seems so alluring, different.
I uprooted and brought those wild alliums home. They perfumed the car with the smell of dirt and half-dead onions, like funereal rhizomes. The blooms continued to flower for a few more weeks, producing new roots that clung onto wet paper towels, a temporary housing barely suitable for the living. Eventually I made soup out of them with the season’s first stinging nettles. A green bowl for green dreams.
Recipe for Wild Onion, Stinging Nettle, and Cucumber Soup
3 starchy potatoes, chopped
10 wild onion plants, flowers removed for garnish (you can also use 2 medium leeks)
3 celery stalks
8 c. low-sodium vegetable stock
1 English cucumber
1 lb of stinging nettles
creme fraiche, for ganish
+ Prepare the potatoes by scrubbing them and chopping them into 2″ cubes. Clean the onions by removing the dirt and outer layers, setting aside the flowers for garnish. Then, cut the celery stalks into 1″ cubes.
+ Cook the potatoes and onion root in vegetable broth for 15 minutes. Next, add the onion tops and celery and cook for an additional 15 minutes on a low boil. Meanwhile, cut, then puree the cucumber in a food processor. Set aside.
+ Remove the potatoes and onions from the broth and puree until creamy.
+ Use the broth to boil the nettles for at least 3 minutes. Remove and puree until smooth.
+ Return all of the pureed ingredients to your pot, including the raw cucumber and salt to taste. Add water as needed. You can serve this hot or cold, garnished with a dollop of creme fraiche and a few onion flowers.