Thursday, February 18, 2010
A Bit of Winter Green
It's become something of an annual tradition that on a sunny day in February, when the cabin fever is running high, I put the dogs in the car and head to a woods I know, a little ways south of the cities. A sweet little trout stream runs through this woods, and the stream is fed by a pretty spring, and in that spring lives the only green thing in the white winter woods (except for some tenacious moss): watercress.
Because cress grows in springs that bubble up from the earth at a fairly constant temperature year ‘round, the plants are protected in a sort of microclimate created by the 40-degree water. The plants dangle their fine white roots over the sandy bottom, but they take most of their
The spring is not bursting with cress at this time of year; the plants are holding steady, waiting for sympathetic signs from the season. I harvest sparingly, taking a few leaves here, a few there. When I'm finished I want the spring to look exactly as it did before I started picking.
Of course, I sample some leaves of cress while I’m picking, and that pungent, almost hot flavor, along with the brilliant green of it, acts as an absolute tonic to my winter-dulled senses. Then with a few servings of cress tucked away, the dogs and I take a wandering walk along the stream. They dash back and forth from bank to bank, kicking up a splashy ruckus. I’ll try to find a quiet pool to peer into, try to spot some trout. Opening day of Minnesota’s trout season is still weeks away, but a guy can dream….
This stream usually runs thin over sand and graveled riffles, only deepening in corner pools where the current digs into the bank, but this year I found I couldn't cross in the expected places, wearing only calf-high boots--beavers had built two dams a couple hundred yards apart. That extra depth could make for good fishing, for a while, though the dams might not survive the spring floods that often scour a narrow valley stream like this.
It was a great day to be out. I wandered from the path and had a pulse-raising trudge through knee-deep snow--should have brought the snowshoes--soaked up a good dose of vitamin D in sunshine that is strong and hot on a calm clear afternoon now.
The cress we use judiciously, as these winter leaves are especially pungent. Last night we tucked a few leaves into extraordinary fish tacos, local as hell, and more details on which to follow.
A fine weekend to all.
Text and photos copyright 2010 by Brett Laidlaw