It’s this time of year, when a blast of unbearably cold mornings linger and the breath of spring has already teased the blooms out of the forsythia and Japanese magnolias in my yard – before nipping them back again, that I feel bonded with the thousands of farmers across our region who are laden with the unquenchable anxiety to get back in the fields and grow something.
At brunch last Sunday, discussions among my group of friends turned quickly to greenhouses, winter crops and spring gardens. We discussed the tedious nature of citrus and avocado in our “wanna be tropical” zone that just isn’t quite warm enough year round here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We dreamed of vine-ripened tomatoes and pinpointed the best planting dates for sweet corn. But all of those discussions don’t make spring arrive any sooner, as my fireplace roars while the sun peaks over the horizon to greet a blustery 28 degrees this morning.
If spring won’t come find me, then I must go find spring.
For today, my solution is a known return. I know that somewhere in South Louisiana, farmers are facing this last blast of winter to pick the first spring strawberries – just for me, I imagine. Their fruit is small and sweet, with a full white crown on top, the tell-tale of their early harvest. These strawberries arrive in a plain-labeled carton marked “Louisiana Strawberries” at my favorite local market, Rouse’s Market, this time of year, ready to make me smile.
Sliced and laid atop my morning waffle, sprinkled with the lightest dusting of sugar, I have no need today for my usual local honey or my favorite of northern imports, Vermont Maple Syrup.
Deep in the recesses of my freezer, I discover what I knew was there: leftover spring from last year. I dig out that one last bag of spring strawberries that I saved last year and couldn’t bear to use until now. But it’s time to use them. I think I’ll make homemade Strawberry Quick Bread and smear it with peanut butter for breakfast tomorrow. That’ll pack a powerful punch for my day for sure.
But that doesn’t negate my need to smell the soil and walk the fields. Your food comes from those fields – your groceries are the fruit of a winter spent by many, many farmers anxiously awaiting spring.
For me, it’s time to hit the road and see spring firsthand. Somewhere in Florida or South Texas, spring vegetables and fruits are ripening. Farmer’s are starting seeds across the coastal South. The days are getting longer, and the daffodils are blooming in our pastures. Final preparations are being made to stock the grocery shelves this year – just for you. Don’t you want to be a part of the action? To see how it’s done? I do.
C’mon, we’re going to find spring, y’all.