My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I've been envying those of you who are already enjoying fresh bounty from your gardens, as ours is still buried under fresh snow. Our growing season starts late and "lasses so shortly" (as I'm told I said as a child, only then I was paraphrasing my father's complaint about how long a tank of gas lasted in his Volkswagon bus!)

Although gardens around here won't be giving up any of their harvest for at least another couple of months, our edible wild landscape is more ambitious and cooperative. One rainy May evening many years ago, our neighbor Jennifer threw one of her wonderful vegan potlucks. At one point in the evening she vanished from the party for a while, and when she reappeared, soaking wet, she was holding a large bowl of leaves, which she set down on the table with what remained of the potluck food. I asked, "What were you doing and what's that?" She said, "I've been in the canyon picking Bluebell leaves, which is what those are." "Why?" (I tend to be inquisitive. My parents always thought I'd be a trial lawyer or journalist. Sorry, folks!) Jennifer replied, "To eat. They're delicious and high in vitamin C." Jennifer had taken wild edibles foraging classes with a famous instructor and published author on that subject, whose name I've since forgotten. (Tom something. Tom Brown?) So I grabbed a leaf and nibbled it. Tender, slightly spicy yet sweet, it turned me into a forager of Bluebell leaves every spring since, as I graze on them during hikes and pick them to add to our salads.

Mountain Bluebells (Mertensia Oblongifolia)

According to my Field Guide to Rocky Mountain Wildflowers (a 1963 version, filled with pressed flowers, that my grandmother gave me years ago and that has accompanied me on many a hike), the Mountain Bluebell is a member of the Borage family, and is also called Cowslip and Tall Chimingbell, though I've never heard them called anything but Bluebells. There are 45 species, 35 of which are found in the Rocky Mountain region, growing between 5,000 - 12,000'. Our house is at 5500', and we have a lot of them here.

In addition to the rare and ravenous Jennifer and Laloofah critters :-), elk, deer, bears, sheep and rockchucks (a marmot) all eat them, and pikas cut, dry and store the plant for winter use - something I have yet to try! We definitely enjoy them freshly picked, though...

Normally I mix the leaves in with the rest of the salad,
but I left them on top for better visibility in this photo. :-)

Along with the bluebell leaves my salad that day consisted of Romaine lettuce, radishes, tamari pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, chia seeds, almonds, red cabbage, and avocado, with fresh lemon juice and tamari as my dressing.

Mocha and I both enjoy grazing on tender spring greens!

As I sat on the deck and grazed on my salad, Mocha grazed in his pasture. He was hard to see in this photo, so I drew a heart around him to help you out. :-)

You'll notice I took these photos on Earth Day, a lovely warm day with only a few patches of snow here and there. Good thing I enjoyed it while it lasted... May has been nothing but snow, snow, snow. Here is Mocha in his pasture this afternoon, during our latest Winter storm (which has dumped several more inches on us - though down in town it's raining - but is much worse to the south, closing the Interstate and dumping nearly three feet of snow in southern and central parts of the state. So as I said in my previous post, it could be worse!)

Well, much as I'd love to stay and visit more, I need to shovel the deck, get out the Christmas decorations and wrap some presents. Happy Holidays to me, happy gardening to the rest of you! ;-)

Actually, I do have time to share one more thing before I shovel the deck for what I hope is the last time this spring! My friend Marla wrote a beautiful letter to her little boy on Mother's Day, which she posted on her blog. Marla writes with such heart and such talent, and I found this post particularly eloquent and touching. I really enjoyed it and wanted to share it with you, too.

And now I really must go, there are carolers at the door. LOL


  1. I can't believe your weather! Your salad looks delicious. Many people out here are into foraging, but I'm afraid I'll eat something toxic...or something the dogs have used as a toilet. Good for you! New and exciting greens are a thrill.

  2. Maybe Dr Doolittle talks like the animals, but I like the idea of eating like them better; I think the deer and elk know what the good stuff is. I'd love to try some bluebell they taste sort of like cucumber?

    Love your earth day pics, and the little heart you drew around Mocha. I can understand getting fed up with snow at this stage, but snow in the mountains is generally a good thing...and I think it must make the summer time all the more beautiful.

    Do you ever ski around the place?

    I also read Marla's post and was very moved, thanks for the link. I'm feeling really depressed about the whole situation in the Gulf right now...I'm sure everyone is. It is a feeling of helplessness and loss, sadness and confusion...I don't know what to think.

    Take care,



  3. Bluebells! Who knew? Those things are all over our back yard and will soon be in my daily salad. Oh, and your beautiful Mocha...

    Thanks for the link and kind words, sweet one...

  4. OMG, and I forgot to mention: how totally adorable and clever are those pikas?

  5. How fun foraging for wild greens. I would be so afraid I would poison us that I would not be brave enough to try that. You are lucky to have a friend that can show you the way.

    Sorry I was so late stopping by. I don't know how I missed this post. Clearly I am a little distracted at the moment. ;-)

    talk to you later,

  6. I'm having the worst computer luck lately! I'd just finished writing a lengthy reply to your first three comments when my ISP went down for the count. I was able to save what I'd typed, but now that there are two more comments I want to reply to as well, I've decided that instead of one REALLY long reply, I"ll answer each of you individually, and in so doing also artificially boost my comment tally. Bonus! LOL

    Mary - I know, our weather's always crazy, but seems especially manic this spring! I don't know if they had snow as far south as Denver, but I do know northern Colorado got quite a bit in this storm, so you may have gotten out before you got snowed in!

    I wouldn't be eating bluebell leaves if not for Jennifer's guidance, and now I have books that identify the edible, medicinal and toxic plants of the Rockies, so I usually know what's good to eat and what's not. But I'm not an experienced enough forager to always be certain ~ when I'm in doubt, "Into the Wild" springs to mind and I'll declare the dubious vegetation to be a "Leaverite plant." (As in "just leaverite there.") :-)

    I'll admit, the thought of deer having peed on my bluebell leaves has occurred to me, but I rinse them well and figure, "shoot, what's a little leaf-pee between friends?" :-)

  7. Rose - I wish I had a bluebell leaf to munch on while contemplating the flavor of cucumber so I could say for certain, but while the deer might be wiling to paw through a foot of snow for them, I draw the line. :-) However, I think that's not a bad comparison... but it's not quite it. When the leaves are fairly new and tender, they're sweeter than a cucumber, and their mildly spicy taste doesn't have an taste counterpart I can think of. (Someone with a more discerning palate would probably come up with one right away!) Texture-wise they're like baby spinach leaves, but they taste different. (This explains why I don't work in marketing or write restaurant reviews). ;-)

    I have grown weary of snow, but we're glad to have the moisture and after it's melted I'll have to send you a photo so you can ask your husband if it's as green here as Ireland. :-) Some springs it seems like it would rival the Emerald Isle for eye-watering greenness!

    I'm glad you liked Mocha's heart-shaped frame. :-)

    As for skiing around here, it's not steep enough for downhill and it's too steep for x-country! (There's just no pleasing some people, is there? LOL) BW tried once to x-country ski down the level portion of our road, but the snow was too wet and gluey. I stick with hiking whenever possible, and sometimes snowshoeing. Or curling up with a book and a cup of tea. :-)

    I'm so glad you visited Marla's post, and the comment you left her was lovely! I feel the same way you and Marla do about the calamity in the Gulf, and it's definitely ramped-up our resolve to live off-grid and car-less as possible as soon as possible. I always liked this quote...

    It is never too late to go quietly to our lakes, rivers, oceans, even our small streams, and say to the seagulls, the great blue herons, the bald eagles, the salmon, that we are sorry.
    ~Brenda Peterson in "Singing to the Sound"

    But this time it does feel too late, and what good is an apology if we just keep doing the things we're apologizing for? Meanwhile I sign the many petitions I get about off-shore drilling, clean energy policy, etc (figuring they're falling on already-bought-and-paid-for deaf ears, but signing them anyway). And I've shared this with a few people, including my hairdresser... did you see it on the Vegansaurus or Animal Rights & AntiOppression blogs?

    Matter of Trust

    They collect hair from barbers, beauty shops and groomers to make into mats to help soak up oil after oil spills, and now this leak in the Gulf. In the face of this mega-disaster it's a small thing, but it's at least something! (I'll bet between Ali's cats and my dogs, a couple of our vacuum cleaner canisters would soak up the whole hideous mess!) :-) If only...

    As for the pika, they are indeed awfully clever, and their adorableness totally pegs out the Cute-O-Meter! :-) When BW read this post, I told him he HAD to click on the pika and rockchuck links, the photos are just too sweet!

  8. That salad looks so good and I adore the picture with Mocha grazing in the background. <3

    May spring come & stay for us both very soon! No more snow for you, too. That's nonsense!

  9. Marla - Really, you have bluebells in your backyard? Sweet! It's doubtless a different variety than ours - in fact, Jennifer told me there are two varieties of Mountain Bluebells growing here, and though they're both edible, one tastes far better than the other. I tested this for myself, and she was right. :-) So I pick the variety that grow in our shady ravine and generally leave the ones that grow in the open meadows alone (our ravine variety grows and blooms earlier, so maybe that's why it's more tender and tasty). Give your bluebells a nibble and see if they're tasty! As I said way back up yonder in my first paragraph to Rose, they're best when they're fairly new, so nibble soon! :-) I'd love to hear if you found them worthy of your salads! There were beautiful seas of bluebells in the shady glades of Scotland, but I didn't taste any. I didn't know about their edible qualities when I was there, sadly!

  10. Ali - It is fun, but like I said to Mary, I proceed with caution, and when in doubt, I don't chance it. There are quite a few toxic plants out here, and while in nibbling quantities I doubt they'd kill a human, I bet some of them might make you so sick you'd wish they would! I'm especially cautious about berries. And I've never foraged for mushrooms, though BW really wanted to go look for morels after our fire.. but we didn't (too busy cleaning up after the fire to go mushroom-gathering!) But given my love of the fabulous fungi, learning about wild mushroom foraging is something I'd love to do, but only with someone who knew what they were doing! We don't have many wild mushrooms here anyway, so for now, I limit my shroom-hunts to the grocery stores! :-)

    Don't worry about being "late" with your comment! At the rate I post, you usually have at least a week before there's any possibility you'll miss one! LOL

    By the way, do any of you have Fiddlehead Ferns where you are? I know Mary must... that was a wonderful edible plant I learned about in Maine. So delicious, and easily identifiable! :-)

  11. Molly - That salad was mighty tasty, wish you could have joined Mocha and me for our graze-fest! :-) I picked some extra leaves, rinsed them and put them in a baggie for BW to have in a salad when he got home that night, and they were stronger tasting than the ones I ate right after I picked them. So I wonder what the pika's dried leaves taste like in winter?

    I second your motion on spring coming and staying put for us both! And I LOL'ed at your description of our snow as "nonsense." That's a much more family-friendly adjective for it than the ones I was using when I shoveled the deck this morning. ;-)

    Wow, kids, that was fun! This looks like a wicked popular post all of a sudden! LOL Thanks for all your fun comments, glad my ISP let me stay connected long enough to reply to all of you! xoxo

  12. Lalo,

    I love Fiddleheads. Dan bought me 10 pounds last year are part of my b'day present. We blanched and froze then. But the only fiddleheads I have had came from the grocery store. Same for ramps. Mushroom foraging would be great if I had a clue what I was doing. Our friend Ian does, but I have to pass on that too.


  13. Ali - ramps? What are ramps? Well, I mean I know what ramps are, lol... but not a food item called ramps. :-)

    I love that you got fiddleheads as part of a birthday present!! That's too funny. (Speaking of presents, could what had you distracted earlier possibly be the blinding, watermelon-hued sparkle from your Mother's Day present?) ;-)

    Oh, do you ever go mushroom gathering with Ian? That would be fun, even if you never wanted to go solo! I've never been.

  14. Lalo,

    Ramps are a wild spring onion with a leaf that starts white then becomes green and finally a deep purple. They have short growing season and have a mild onion flavor. They are a local delicacy. You can buy them from if you want to try them.

    Dan did a good job for Mother's Day didn't he? I have trained him well. LOL

    I have not gone mushroom hunting with Ian. He is much more adventurous than I am. ;-)


  15. Ali - thanks for explaining ramps! I've never heard of them. Learn something new every day! :-) They sound gorgeous! I'll check out

    I just posted a comment on your Mom's Day gift post, but gave the kitties all the credit for their taste in jewelry. ;-) But tell Dan I'm SURE he helped. I at least hope he's the one who drove them to the jewelry store! LOL

  16. Hi again,

    Wow, this is one engaging and fun post/comment follow up...I really think you should consider being a comedienne...some of the stuff you say just literally cracks me up completely..."at least I hope he's the one that drove to the jewelry store"...your delivery is perfect!

    Do keep posting pics of the spring metamorphosis in your natural surroundings...I'm sure it is very green indeed.

    I heard about the hair remnant/oil absorption on the radio...that is so cool; I must send some in.

    I think in France, you can bring foraged mushrooms and plants into any chemist and they will identify it for's apparently an obligatory part of any pharmacist training...I think that's so cool too.

    Thanks again Laloofah for the news and info and laughs...I'll sign off now with visions of ramps, fiddleheads, and bluebells in my head.

  17. Rose - thank you for finding me amusing. :-) There's almost nothing I love more than making people laugh, though much of the time when I manage it, it's completely inadvertent! LOL

    I will continue to post our morphing weather and landscape. Hopefully the wildflowers haven't been set back too much, and the moisture will make them abundant this year! We're supposed to have sunshine and 70's (even UPPER 70's, whoo-hoo) for a few days, which should green things up nicely!

    I love that chemists in France will check out your foraged goodies for you! I wouldn't be surprised if they do it in other countries too.

    And I'll take visions of ramps, fiddleheads and bluebells dancing in my head over sugarplums any day! :-)

    Have a wonderful weekend, Rose! xoxo

  18. Yummy Yum Yum! Free grazing, animals abound....I'm coming over! But only when you are free of snow!! LOL Almost 30 here yesterday!! Yeah, Canadians live in igloos!! LOL xo.

  19. Izzy - Wait, 30º fahrenheit, or 30º celsius?? (I guess your igloos would be in trouble if it were 30º celsius there already!) :-)


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  • THE HUMANE GARDENER ~ Nancy Lawson
  • THE WORLD WITHOUT US ~ Alan Weisman

There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"

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