By Ashley Walshe
April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.
— William Shakespeare
April is a child of wonder, lord of the mud pies, the crown prince of play.
Yesterday it rained so hard the earthworms learned to swim. Today, the peepers are peeping. The sun is out. The prince of play gathers the essentials:
Large wooden spoon? Check.
Mixing bowl and pie tins? Check, check.
Measuring cups? Don’t need them.
There’s a watering can full of rain on the back porch. Or, there was. The boy squishes across the yard, settles onto the floor of his squashy kingdom.
Mud sings as sweet as any muse. But you must know how to listen.
The boy closes his eyes, readjusts his flower crown and scoops up a wet heap of earth. He dabs a little on his face. He squelches his fingers through it. He digs into the mire with his toes.
This is what the mud said:
In a large mixing bowl, combine two parts squish and one part rainwater. Wriggle your toes as you stir, mixing until the first hummingbird graces the first bearded iris.
When the cottontail rabbits multiply, fold in a dash of wet grass and a fat pinch of redbud before transferring to pie tins.
As the robins pluck their breakfast from the lawn, top with generous layer of dandelion leaves.
Garnish with snakeskin, snail shells and a
dollop of wisteria.
The sun will take care of the rest.
Spring is doing what spring does best. The earth is softening, once-barren landscapes now bubbling with tender buds and blossoms. In the garden, asparagus rises like birdsong. And after it rains? Enter Marasmius oreades, aka, the fairy ring mushroom.
If ever you’ve stumbled on a near-perfect circle of these buff-colored, wavy-capped fungi, perhaps you’ve smiled at the amusing “coincidence.” Or maybe it spooked you, particularly if one popped up on your own lawn. (Note: These boomers are known to kill turf.)
Myth and folklore refer to these circles as “fairy rings.” Can’t you almost see it? A wild band of wee folk dancing among these mushroom portals?
Tempting as it may be to step inside a fairy ring, myths warn against it. Long of the short of it, those who are lured inside become captives of an unseen realm where hundreds of years can pass in a blink.
On the subject of fair warnings: The fairy ring mushroom is actually a choice edible with a sweet quality that has made its dried caps the star ingredient of more than a few macaroon and cookie recipes. (Go on, look them up.) But this innocent wildling does have a toxic lookalike. Best not to harvest unless you know for sure. And, certainly, withhold from sautéing them.
How did the pretty foxglove get its name? Etymologists have spun many theories. In 1847, William Fox Talbot proposed that “foxglove” may have derived from “folks’ glove,” especially since the Welsh called the flower maneg ellyllon, aka, “fairies’ glove.”
This much we do know: They are bumblebee magnets.
If ingested, the common foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) is highly poisonous to people and animals. In this case, looks can’t kill. But one could see why the Scottish called them “witches’ thimbles.” PS