Spring beauties: glorious…and also the “ultimate tater tot.”

Mertensia, or Virginia Bluebells and Spring Beauties
I just love, love, love this photo of spring beauties, taken along the banks of the Susquehanna yesterday. Think I’m gonna blow it up to poster size and hang it on my living room walls.
I was surprised to see so many spring beauties yesterday since they are normally the first wildflower to bloom along the riverbank.
But this year,  spring beauties are blooming along with the mertensia, making the riverbank twice as beautiful. Would never have conceived, as the piece below relates, of this beautiul little plant as “the ultimate tater tot.”
Also posting a picture of mertensia, or Virginia Cowslip or Virginia Bluebells. Huge swaths of them are making the riverbank absolutely spectacular to view.
But back to the spring beauties–Claytonia virginica– which is also a delicious vegetable. It may be the definitive tater tot. Native to moist woodlands, sunny stream banks, and thickets in eastern North America, this low-growing plant has tiny underground tubers that can be prepared and eaten just like potatoes. Indeed, anothercommon name for the spring beauty is the “fairy spud.”

A member of the Portulacaceae, or portulaca family, and a cousin to other well-known wild edibles such as purslane (Portulaca oleracea) and miner’s lettuce (Montia perfoliata), spring beauty is one of about 15 species in the Claytonia genus. The genus is distributed throughout North America and Australasia and has long been a source of good snacking. Both the Iroquois and Algonquin dined on the boiled or roasted tubers of Claytonia virginica.

A perennial herb, spring beauty usually grows about six inches tall and eight inches wide. It sports grasslike, succulent, dark green leaves. In early spring, dense racemes of star-shaped, pink-tinged white flowers appear and last for about a month. When spring beauties blossom in large drifts across the landscape, the effect is stunning.

The tubers are found about two to three inches under the soil and measure from a half inch to two inches in diameter. In his classic culinary field guide, Stalking the Wild Asparagus, Euell Gibbons wrote a charming chapter on these wild edible treats. He remarked that the “spuds” don’t really taste like potatoes at all but rather are sweeter in flavor, like boiled chestnuts, though with a softer, smoother texture.

However, even back in 1970, Gibbons sounded a note of caution and restraint. He warned against overharvesting the tubers in the wild and diminishing the plants’ flowering display. “The tubers are good food for the body,” he wrote, “but after a long winter, the pale-rose flowers in early spring are food for the soul.”

Author: luzerne2112

As I get older -- and I'm 70 now -- I seem to find more and more that nature is the true source of peace, inspiration and, most of all, the truth the passeth understanding. Though my knowledge is sketchy and superficial, I wanted to share it while I can.

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