Thursday, April 7, 2011

More edible weeds

I had passed it many times before, often nearly stepping on it.  Like rays of sunshine breaking through crowded trees, the little white and yellow flowers peeked out of the brick sidewalk.  Chamomile grows wild all over Israel and is well-known for calming irritated skin and upset tummies.  We picked some today to dry and use in tea during Pesach.  With all of that matzah, someone is bound to get indigestion.

There is so much repetition in life.  Travelling the same path to and from school or work, our surroundings tend to blur.  But today something jumped out of the background.  It was an almond tree, one that I hadn't notice before because only now has it begun to bud and blossom.  Even trees have their unique biological clocks and this one was a late bloomer.  Its branches stretched high into the sky, as if to say, "I may not have been as fast, but I finally did it."  It looks so proud and beautiful.

Wild asparagus grows in our forested park.  The shoots are as lanky and awkward as a teenager.  When asparagus is cultivated, the earth is mounded up around the plants (which are perennials, producing good shoots for twenty years or more) and they are harvested when young and tender.  I snapped off a tip and took a bite.  Bitter!  I wonder how many years of experimentation it took to discover the cultivation methods used now to make it more palatable.

When picking the daisy-like flowers for our tea, I reminded Puriel to leave some on each plant.  Aside from the courtesy of saving some for other people to enjoy, the annual wildflowers need to fade, go to seed, and fall to the ground in order for them to return next year.  We made sure to avoid the tomato weed, because I haven't figured out yet if it's poisonous or not.

We're halfway home and find a variety of wild peas, part of the Papilionaceae family, which derives its name from the butterfly-shaped flowers.  Tendrils are twirled around its next-door neighbor, barley, which is one of the seven species that the land of Israel is praised for.

"It is a land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs and pomegranates; a land of oil-olives and honey-dates." Devarim (Deuteronomy) 8:8

Barley is the first of the winter grains to ripen, marking the beginning of spring and the omer offering which connects the holidays of Pesach and Shavuot.  Its Hebrew name, se'ora is similar to se'ar (hair), referring to its hair-like spikes.  It was the grain of choice until the Second Temple period when it was replaced by wheat.  Wheat, barley, spelt, rye and oats are the five grains that can be chametz.

Hemdiya has been helping me use up the last of our chametz.  I think he needs to find a new method.  When cleaning, make sure that toxic detergents aren't as accessible as the spaghetti and Honey Bunches of Oats were.  It's easy to get distracted and accidentally leave things within reach of tiny, curious fingers.

Yesterday I went out with a friend who has a car and did my Pesach shopping.  Matzah pizza is a favorite in this house and I always make coconut chocolate-chip macaroons.  I find myself singing the popular folk song:  Simcha raba, simcha raba, aviv higi'a, Pesach ba!  (Great joy, spring has arrived, Pesach is coming!)  Sing along with the Rechov SumSum (Sesame Street) version here:

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