Spring always sneaks up on me. Winter arrives with expected holiday fanfare, summer languidly saunters in bits at a time, and fall may arrive later than I’d like but gives glimpses of its impending arrival … yet I somehow spend weeks longing for spring with very little hope it’s coming, bundling layer after layer, long after ads everywhere would have me believe it should be warm and sunny. Then, just when I start to believe we have somehow tripped into a never-ending winter—bam! The crocuses push through the icy ground in our community garden and the produce lining the shelves of our local grocery shift in the most wonderful of ways.
It’s deceptive, spring. Winter can feel very harsh, right until the end, but every year, spring trips in unannounced, laughing and bumping into all my doubts. It’s weirdly, surprisingly, incredibly tardy every year in a way the other three seasons never seem to be. And yet there it is each year, confirmed and sealed to commitment by the overwhelming appearance of asparagus, radishes, leeks, and artichokes crowding my produce shelves.
Sure, I live in a world where I can pretty much find any ingredient at any time, but there is something I find absolutely magical about the week I open my FreshDirect app to see those Fiddlehead Ferns awaiting my Add to Cart, made all the sweeter by the fact I spent the past month questioning all my life choices.
The first day of spring, known as Ostara (O-stahr-uh) in Wicca, inevitably still arrives colder than I’d like. Nonetheless, it heralds the fact that winter is technically over and warmth and light have officially returned—or, at least, are on their way. Ostara, as one of two Equinoxes of the year, balances light with dark and reminds us that the time of reflection is over and the time for renewal has come. As the earth awakens, so shall we. It is time to bring what has started as mere roots into the coming sun.
So, despite my mixed feelings of the arrival, there is a feeling here, a tangible energy in our city, when the weather lifts ever so slightly and suddenly our long-shut windows are flung open. It’s a shared, joyous celebration that percolates and rushes out in crowds to the streetside tables of restaurants and the open parks and greenways, a feeling that, as a community, we all are breathing a collective sigh of relief that, at long last, winter is over. You see it in the smiles and welcoming hugs of neighbors who have been missed in the colder months, of children yelling and running through the now-packed playgrounds. In the bodegas, doors open and music spilling out onto the sidewalk.
Spring brings such a wonderful inescapable feeling, captured perfectly with the bounty of gifts it brings. I love gathering the vegetables of spring to create meals that emphasize and support all those feelings spring brings to us—all the hope and growth, the joy and anticipation, even some recognition of the patience (so much patience) it took to get here.
A few of the gems we find this time of year, freshly picked and available, include:
Asparagus – the symbol of spring, fertility, and love
Artichoke – a giver of patience and the reminder our journey should be joyful
Carrots – spark creativity
Leeks – protect and strengthen existing love
Fiddlehead Ferns – bring peace, hope, and endurance
Eggs – symbolize new life and rebirth
Our meals on Ostara reflect the anticipation of all the light and the enjoyment of what’s to come.
We make deviled eggs to welcome back the sun, small orbs of yellow warmed with paprika.
Steamed artichokes piled on a plate, surrounded by lemons bringing us joy and rejuvenation.
I always make a big pot of springtime risotto, filled with the bright buttered yellows and asparagus greens awaiting us just around the corner.
I love a roasted carrot, covered in the sweetness of honey with a bit of spicy red pepper flakes, honoring the balance of Ostara itself.
And I can never resist a great frittata. I combine all the vegetables—asparagus and leeks and fiddlehead ferns, all of them all at once—roasted and brought together with eggs, cream, and some pepper.
So, Add to Cart it is! I all but run to our local market and tip the kind people dragging my overwrought FreshDirect orders up our five flights generously. Spring offers us a brilliant way to welcome the arrival of a new season and the release of the old with conscious intention. To set our tables with foods that embody the promise of the coming months and reminders of how we got here. Promises of hope for the future, new life, and rejuvenation with roots planted in the love and endurance that got us where we are. Surrounded with hope and joy and the magic of new beginnings.
Misty Bell Stiers is an artist and author. Her memoir Witch, Please (Apollo Publishers, 2018), explores her extraordinary journey to Wicca and features her original art. Her new cookbook, Light, Fire, & Abundance, draws from ancient practices and natural properties of plants and herbs to provide an understanding of how food connects us and how to impart love through a thoughtful meal.