In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb…Once upon a time, this was how March came to me on the cusp of cold winter air, with hints of spring through patches of white and crystal icicle drips on top of leaves from last autumn. But that was up north. Here in the southeast, there is no real winter to speak of, and since moving to North Carolina, each year spring has come earlier than I ever imagined it could. Early spring flowers bloomed at the end of January. A second wave of native flower buds have already popped, with Bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia), Eastern Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata), and Columbine (Aquilegia Canadensis) peeking through bountiful leaves this spring. This year was a complete surprise for everyone, with an unprecedented stretch of warmth throughout the winter months, as well as an official change in the USDA Hardiness Zone Map. My neighborhood has been upgraded from Zone 7 to Zone 8. It’s only April 1st, and I am already late to the game for spring vegetable plantings!
Oregano, chives, and parsley overwinter here very well, and my plants have been ready to harvest for a month now. The first chamomile came to bloom last week, too. These early sightings are due to the warmer weather, but just as much blame goes to the sheer volume of rain that fell in March. In fact, the term “rainy season” has taken on a completely new meaning for me this year. For weeks, a completely saturating shower has fallen every few days. A continuous seep now runs down the ridge from the woods behind my house, turning a short walk to the compost bin into a complex trail of mud dappled with grass islands, footprints, and small pools of mosquito larva…joy. To keep things in perspective, I have taken to humming Águas de Março each time I head out to the garden. Try it. Seriously. It’s catchy, and you can’t help but feel good about this song. It was written for the rainiest month in Brazil, and it’s not hard to imagine Antonio Jobim watching the streets of Rio de Janeiro flooded by showers with a constant stream of items washing through the city, then slowing to a trickle before the last drop falls from the skies. My backyard has certainly looked like this since at least February, so it is fitting to have this song stuck in my head each time new rivulets flow past the vegetable bed and deck.
To celebrate a break in the rains, I have been out weeding every chance I could this past week, taking down the last of the winter veggies and moving chickweed out of the way, which is all you do with it, anyway, since it just comes back no matter how far you move it. This year, I plan to set as much Swiss chard as possible in the vegetable garden, and even other landscape beds to see how it fares. I think I spent more money at farmer’s markets last year on Swiss chard than anything else, so I hope to have a steady supply this year with three heirloom varieties across the color spectrum. The row that overwintered is only coming on now because the neighbor’s house got in the way of the low winter sun (oops!), so the waters of March have mixed with the new daylight hours to bring those seeds on strong the last few weeks. I have my fingers crossed that this is simply an extended spring, and that summer will wait to show up in full force for at least another 60 days.
Since it was First Sunday, we decided to celebrate April 1st with a walk into town for the monthly street fair in between weeding sessions. Foolishly, we walked out of the house without eating lunch first, so, of course, we had to buy some goodies while we were out. A new food truck showed up this month, baguettaboutit, with a variety of, you guessed it, baguette sandwiches. I recently discovered pimento cheese, a southern cheese spread with diced red peppers, and I just had to try their version – pretty good. I would have liked it with slices of roasted red pepper, too, but that’s my thing. The baguette itself was really good with proper crust and structure, which is surprisingly hard to come by down here for some reason. As it turns out, they source their baguettes from a French bakery in Rhode Island because there were no local bakeries that could promise the volume they needed. But, hey, it works. Besides, baguettaboutit makes their own sauces, and they have a good local source for their sausages: the famous Giacomo’s in Greensboro. What a nice addition to the local food truck scene.
And how better to follow up lunch at a street fair in spring than with a chocolate waffle cone? Maple View Farm is a local dairy that has amazing ice cream. As a matter of fact, it was the first place I went sightseeing on my first trip to North Carolina over 20 years ago. Now that they have expanded from their on-farm store into the rest of the Triangle, I don’t have to drive 30-odd miles for their chocolate ice cream. However, I do have to make sure I walk into town from now on if they are going to be here each month for First Sundays – unless it’s raining, of course…
The song Águas de Março (Waters of March) has the distinction of being voted the best Brazilian song of all time. It is a cultural treasure, too, in no small part due to the celebrity and talent of renowned composer Antonio Jobim. Known also as Tom Jobim, he is the most recognized ambassador of bossa nova around the world. Águas de Março includes a number of references that are distinctly Brazilian, such as garrafa de cana, a liquor made from sugarcane; festa da cumeeira (Feast of the Ridge), a celebration on the completion of a home or building; and peroba do campo, the common name for at least two different species of trees native to Brazil, Paratecoma peroba and Aspidosperma macrocarpon. Written originally in 1972, Jobim recorded the definitive version of Águas de Março in 1974 on the album Tom and Elis with Elis Regina, another cultural treasure from Brazil.
– A Dash of Culture
Where Every Story Has Food and Every Food Has a Story.™