hi all! we have just had a glorious month of april here in the czech republic and the constant warm weather and sunshine just seems never-ending! sometimes there are rumors of a thunderstorm but they always seem to pass our sunny little corner of bohemia by.
oh, i have been busy! with all good things. as many people, i’ve been taking full advantage of the beautiful days and weekends with plenty of trips to the forest and the annual malše river trip. we didn’t bring our little dog as he pretty much hates water and the idea of him hanging out in a raft that has been splashed with water is laughable.
another form of soaking up as much outside time as possible: plenty of spending quality time in various gardens with great company has been on the agenda and reading a great paperback outside with a dog and a big floppy hat. i have really full woken up from my hibernation and i’m not the only one, it seems – the months of february and march were particularly dreary at times so it feels like i’m living my best life now. (can i just live outside?)
i think this year the coming of spring has awakened such an enthusiasm in me that i’ve begun to study herbalism through a course and a series of local workshops! i’ll be studying for a beginners’ certificate over the remaining spring and summer months and it really gives me new life and already has caused me to look at plants and flowers differently. this subject is something i’ve been wanting to know more about forever and it gives me such happiness to finally learn about it, especially in a formal way. i wasn’t lucky enough to grow up around relatives or grannies who taught me things about plants and gardening, but i hope i can be that person for someone else someday! i’m realizing it’s all about sharing and spreading knowledge about what these super plants can do.
one of my favorite anecdotes about plants & life in czech is a story someone once told me: when he was about eight years old, he and his brother were playing in the woods, somewhere near jindřichův hradec
in south bohemia. he and his brother came across an older man who said, “hey! do you want to see a great place to find mushrooms?” the boy and his brother agreed and they followed this stranger through the forest. FOR ALMOST AN HOUR. (to my american sensibility this sounds a little sketchy but here in czech republic it probably is not given another thought) finally, the man leads them to a glade in the forest where it is a veritable mushroom wonderland. the best part is still, to this day, the boy (now man in his forties) still visits this special spot regularly and brings his kids! i love that.
below, foraging super vitamin-rich dandelion leaves in the forest near petříkov.
i can’t believe i’m adding another language to my repertoire as well, in preparation for our trip to france next month (yesss, i can finally say “next month”!) i booted up the ol’ duolingo for french, as well as my continued use for german language. does anyone else use duolingo out there? i find it is fantastic for really fact-checking common grammar mistakes as well as a much-needed vocabulary revision. i haven’t yet started the program for czech yet, but i hear it’s available in beta version and once this france thing blows over, i’m definitely going to give it a go. last summer i completely released all language study until october (sad but true!) but this year will be very different in that regard, especially with plans to study intensive german in berlin this summer.
with spring comes the arrival of produce! bear garlic (also known as ramps or wild garlic) has been a mainstay in the kitchen for the past few weeks, and i’ve been making pesto like a mad-woman. here’s my recipe if you want to give it a go. i like that it uses the whole plant so you don’t have to throw out the stems. they’re still good, too!
wild garlic pesto
100g wild garlic
50g hard italian cheese*, grated
50g pepitas (green-colored pumpkin seeds)
juice of half a lemon
4-5 TB extra-virgin olive oil
approx half a cup of water
salt & pepper to taste
1. wash the wild garlic, then chop it (stems and all) and throw it into a blender or food processor.
2. dry toast (no oil) the seeds in a frying pan on the stove on low heat. watch their condition carefully – you want them to taste and smell deliciously toasty and nutty. after a few minutes, quickly remove from heat and place in another bowl or plate. be careful not to just leave them in the pan because they’ll continue toasting even off the heat.
3. throw the garlic first into the blender/food processor, then the cheese and pepitas, then juice and oil on top. use about a ¼ cup of water at first if you are using a blender, only a tablespoon or so if using a food processor.
4. blend & puree for about 4-5 minutes or until contents are as smooth as you can make them.
5. add a pinch of salt and pepper and blend again. taste and add more if you’d like.
6. if you are working with a blender, and it’s not blending well, continue adding a glug of oil and a splash of water (in equal parts) until things get moving. but only as much just things get moving.
7. put into a jar or use immediately in pasta, as a spread on bruschetta or toast, or really anywhere to add some flavor to your meals.
note: makes one jam-size jar. will stay fresh in the fridge for at least a week, but place into a freezer-safe container and freeze if you want it to stick around longer.
*this recipe can be easily made vegan by subbing 2 TB nutritional yeast
and a couple extra pinches of salt for the cheese. i’ve been doing it like this most of the time, lately!
i love using it with tagliatelle, but i’ve also used it as a base for these schmancy appetizers i made, or in this recipe with asparagus, tomatoes, and poached eggs to give the dish a little more oomphf.
what spring produce inspires you?
i’m so looking forward to this holiday weekend! for half of it, i’ll be visiting a place in the czech republic that i have been wanting to go to for years and am beyond enthused about it to finally be going there! you can tag along on instagram, if you’d like. x