Food Friday: Better with Butter!


I am wandering around our new garden this year, playing CSI, Suburban Garden, identifying new shoots and leaves planted by the former owner. I am remembering my mother’s garden, which was complicated and themed, as my gardens will never be, but the early training has paid off in that I can still recognize the plants that herald spring. For example, my mother had a woodland corner, with jack-in-the-pulpits, Dutchman’s breeches, bloodroot, trillium and bluebells she had transplanted from our former little house in the woods. Later in the spring there would be ferns and hostas (and slugs) and bleeding hearts. There was never anything so banal as a hydrangea in her garden. Everything needed to be vetted and researched and carefully chosen. And so knowledge was imparted.

I was a pesky child, because I wanted to pick all her flowers and bring them indoors, and she was horrified at my brutality. She had just spent a long winter, cooped up with kids, waiting for the moment that the jack-in-the pulpit finally emerged from under the layers of wet leaves. Who could want to pick daffodils after their long journey up through the frozen ground, when they blazed in golden yellow triumph? Look at those violets! Aren’t they cunning in their little niche under the lilac bush? Are there any white violets this year? There were some in the corner by the mossy steps last year.

I have wickedly enjoyed picking a few handfuls of daffodils from my late fall bulb planting. Exhibiting adult restraint, I cut only a few at a time, to have in a vase on the kitchen table, where daffodil scent would waft through when a breeze came through the window. I left enough to make me Google Wordsworth and the Lake District, with my modest first year display of 200 daffodil bulbs bobbing and weaving in the back yard. The previous owner had planted a paltry patch of daffodils near the front stoop, but not the impressive sea (small ripple of a pond) of yellow, nodding heads that I proudly surveyed.

I have planted some peonies in a bed near the front door because my mother had peonies, and some day lilies, too, so I tippy toe around looking for signs of growth every morning. Luke the wonder dog despairs. And near the corner of the garage I have found other peonies sprouting near an ancestral (and hopefully vulgar and florid) hydrangea, and yesterday several spears of amaryllis poked through the ground like small green blades. The shoots of what I thought was wandering jew have turned into little mounds of blue flag, and there is an iris bed in another corner of the back yard that is packed and teeming with plants. I guess I will be learning how to thin irises this spring. Mr. Friday takes my word for all these CSI discoveries. His family didn’t garden. Luke just wants to play ball, and so has no interest.

I found lily of the valley rhizomes in the produce section grocery store a few weeks ago! My mother would be amazed. I haven’t figured out where to plant them in this garden yet. When I was growing up there was a lush squeaky and fragrant bed of them on the west side of the house, just under the dripping hose, so that should give me a clue about where to transplant my own. Right now they are nesting in a little clay pot while I get to know the lay of the land.

But it is spring, and we are all finally emerging from out little huts and caves and cottages, blinking in the light and reaching for the sunscreen. Can life on the porch be resumed? And who is bringing the snacks? Thank you, New York Times.

I cannot believe that I have careened through life this long without trying radishes, salt and butter. I have always been a big fan of bowls of icy radishes, scored to form petals (or not), waved under a salt shaker and consumed in loud munching rabbit bites. The addition of butter has been a revelation. This is the perfect snack to enjoy on the back porch, wrapped in a light sweater, as you perch on a damp porch swing, looking out on the back yard, and contemplate all the possibilities that a spring garden can bring.

“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.”
-William Wordsworth

About Jean Sanders

Write a Letter to the Editor on this Article

We encourage readers to offer their point of view on this article by submitting the following form. Editing is sometimes necessary and is done at the discretion of the editorial staff.