After the long months of gray, brown and beige around the farm through the cold season, what a joy it is to look out windows in all directions over a sea of green.
Most of the time, my favorite color is blue: light blue, dark blue, navy blue, denim blue, sky blue, aqua blue. It doesn’t much matter what shade it is, if there’s a selection of color to be made for some item, I’ll inevitably lean toward blue.
But here, in mid-spring, green is a pretty hefty competitor as most people’s favorite color. And, like blue, green has a wealth of different shades, from the dullest hues familiar to military and camo gear, to the near-neon-glow of new foliage leafing out on trees.
With our daughter having recently invested in a vacation-rental property in Huntingdon County, the hilltop retreat has become a new, overnight family destination. Traveling there last week with items for the house, our eyes were tricked by the chartreuse green of acres of unfurling leaves against the background of the dark mountainsides. The bright, leafy contrast mimicked areas of sunny patches, defying the dark, rain-spitting clouds overhead
With cover crops growing in popularity, as farmers increasingly embrace the soil health benefits of keeping living roots feeding underground microbes and bacteria year-round, the acres of rolling fields in mountain valleys resemble emerald carpets. Farmsteads and outbuildings, some decked out in pristine white, others in traditional red, surrounded by the fields of deep green and cattle dotting pasture hillsides, added picturesque beauty around every twist and turn.
Each twist and turn of the roads served up a vivid reminder of what a beautiful state we call home.
But nature is never content to don just one color, so the expanses of springtime green are enhanced with the outdoor designer’s accents in daffodil ivory, forsythia (and dandelion) yellow, peach-tree pink, lilac purple, clumps of wild-violet blue. Even our somber-green Norway spruce in the backyard decks itself out for a few weeks each spring, donning bright-fuchsia-pink-colored “jewelry,” the colorful infant cones decorating the ends of each branch.
And the designs and crayon-box contrasts across our lovely rural landscapes are in constant flux, one color unfurling while another fades, blossoms opening and others drifting off in the breeze, to join with the soil in nurturing the next wave of ever-changing natural beauty.
Like nature, colorful foods are much more eye-appealing and tempting than bland, blah-looking dishes. We have salads with many of our meals, but a bowl filled with cut-up, ho-hum, generic lettuce just doesn’t set the mouth to watering. Over the winter months, I try to “kick it up a notch,” colorwise at least, with the additions of red lettuce leaves, shredded carrots, finely chopped purple cabbage, red or yellow peppers, even a bit of tomato if I can find some that don’t resemble orangish plastic fakes.
Now, in mid-spring, the garden is beginning to yield up green salad fixings that often go from bed to bowl in a matter of minutes, living up to the description of a “garden salad.”
Small plantings of spinach, kale and arugula sheltered through the winter in my small, mini-tunnel, under layers of clear plastic and floating row cover. Longer days and warming sunshine this spring nudged them into early growth, yielding up more than enough to keep us in fresh, crispy additions to minimal amounts of long-distance pale lettuces.
Now, we can even abandon the long-distance lettuce. Crouching under moisture dripping from a larger, plastic-covered tunnel, I can harvest red-leafed and chartreuse green and bronze-speckled baby lettuces to toss with the heartier greens bursting from their winter digs. The first few of a small row of cherry radishes add a red-skinned, tongue-biting burst of extra flavor.
Scanning the “greens” offerings while preparing an order from my favorite mail-order seed catalog months ago, I spied a listing for “rose orach,” an alternative to spinach. Extra color is always welcome in fresh salad ingredients, generally adding extra nutrient punch as well. With no idea what to expect, I invested two bucks in a packet, just because I like to try new plantings.
The rose orach germinated quickly, poking tiny deep-maroon seedlings up in a few days. They’re now a couple of inches and several-leaves tall, somewhat resembling brightly colored lambs quarters. Taste-wise, they pack about the same subtle flavor as lettuces, but their color certainly perks up a fresh salad. What the rose orach evolves into over the rest of the season will continue the interesting experiment in rose-colored “greens.”
For all of us gardeners, thinking “green” isn’t a new idea at all. It’s what we’ve been doing all along ... season after season after season.