In the Washington area we are finally emerging from a long, cold winter. This winter tried our patience right into early March with a surprise snowstorm followed by temperatures dipping into the single digits. It seemed fitting that during this long winter we had an extra month of Adar on the Jewish calendar, an entire leap month of added winter days.
My family lives on a small vegetable farm in Prince Georges County. This year we approach spring wondering how this harsher winter will impact our growing season. We wonder how the cold temperatures impacted the insect populations and what we will we find when we unwrap the tiny fig trees we planted last fall and wrapped carefully in layers of white fabric.
One of my favorite signs of spring is the vernal pools that form on the low-lying areas of our farm. Before Passover, we will see clusters of frog eggs appear as if by magic in the puddles. The children will watch as tadpoles emerge, grow legs and hop away just before the puddles dry in late spring.
After such a cold winter, there is increased excitement about signs of spring. Everyone seems to be sharing hopeful photos of spring bulbs emerging and trees beginning to bud. Friends in Israel are posting photos on Facebook of the desert in bloom with wildflowers. Here, however, it is still chilly and muddy, and I am spending more time in the kitchen than the garden.
Lately I have been experimenting with chia seeds in my kitchen. Chia is a small seed from the mint family originating in Mexico. It is incredibly nutritious, high in omega-3 fatty acids and is a great source of protein and calcium. It is easy to use and can be sprinkled on breakfast cereal, smoothies, yogurt and salads. Chia is commonly used in Chia Freska, a refreshing drink similar to lemonade and common in parts of Mexico.
Dry chia seeds look like poppy seeds, but when you soak them in water they develop a gelatinous coating. The first thing my soon-to-be seven year old said when he saw chia soaking in water was, “They look exactly like frog eggs.” As soon as he said it, I thought it would be fun to try a spring drink that looks like a vernal pool complete with a sprinkling of chia as faux frog eggs. This drink might be popular with my son’s seven-year-old crowd and with anyone else with a sense of adventure. For the Mama Frog version, spike it with vodka to taste. Enjoy outdoors as you soak up the first signs of spring.