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The First Fresh Greens

Bright green spears of French sorrel emerging through the leaf litter: I'm eating from my garden! With its refreshing tart flavor, this herb is a great salad ingredient — especially with cucumbers.

The arrowhead-shaped leaves will get big, each 12 or 18 inches high; then flower stalks rise four feet, with a few smaller leaves on them as well as scruffy little florets. I cut off these stalks, which flop into the path.

Lovage is not far behind: these sprouts start out bronze-purple, so they don't stand out so much as the sorrel, but brushing aside the dead leaves, I found them an inch tall yesterday. A few more days of this mild weather, and they'll start to unfurl green, jagged leaves that look like those on celery.

You can taste their relation to celery, too — but so much richer, more aromatic. Many people think basil is the perfect herb with tomato — but for me, it's lovage.

My lemon thyme's deep green leaves, (essentially evergreen if they don't get frostbitten) look appetizing. Some winters it dies off completely, and I have to buy more. (I refuse to be without this herb!) It can't stand wet feet; maybe the consistent low temperatures, with no thawing, prevented that?

Uses: herb teas, salads, on fish and chicken, on cooked cauliflower or carrots; in fruit salads, even desserts. And, as an insect repellent! I pick a handful and rub it on exposed skin, then tuck the smashed stems into my hatband.

But the crisp, green leaves of a mallow have me the most excited, because I just learned all the malvas are edible. I tried nibbling on one tiny ruffled leaf, and enjoyed the piquant, slightly peppery flavor — like okra, a relative.

This plant didn't produce its pink flowers for as long as it's supposed to; I dug it up and threw it on the compost pile. However, it had self-seeded. When I see those tiny new plants, I keep getting seduced by the promise of flowers ... and then somehow don't get rid of them before they go to seed again. So it's spreading all over. Now, however, if I eat it, maybe that will keep it down.

After a winter of food trucked long distance, my body is hungry for something it's finally getting as I eat fresh, vital plants from my garden again.

© Copyright 2003 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publishing papers on Friday, 4 April 2003

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For more information

Rumex scutatus - French sorrel: this page from gives general information, and a good illustration of the leaves. I can't find a picture on the Web of a plant with flowers like mine, they all look a lot prettier!

Malva moschata (musk mallow)— I think this it the malva I have, in the pink form.