With spring in full swing and summer on the rise, the world outside our windows seems to be erupting in multi-sensory celebration. The seasonal shifts show up in the fresh scents and lurid shades of blooming flowers and booming grass; in the sun's heat that warms once-frozen soil and freckles our newly bare skin, stretching its light long past dinnertime; in the cricket symphonies and cicada serenades that ripple through the night. This time of brightness and bounty seems to request our attendance — and in fact, there's no better moment than now to get outside and join the festivities. If you find yourself craving some QT with Mother Nature in the coming weeks, we've compiled a list of creative suggestions, below.
1. Start a container garden.
A few terra cotta pots — or even recycled coffee tins, yogurt tubs or plastic lettuce containers — can be transformed to an accessible herb garden on the back porch. Fill each vessel with organic soil from your nearest nursery, and add a handful of seeds. We recommend sowing basil for pesto and tomato sandwiches, mint for mojitos and lemonade, and oregano and thyme for dressings and marinades. All of these herbs are easy to nurture (with ample sunshine and regular watering), and they thrive in warmer temps. We also suggest planting some edible flowers, like nasturtiums (whose bright red and orange blossoms have a surprisingly spicy kick) or pansies, both of which make the most gorgeous garnishes for salads. If you're intimidated by direct seeding, you can purchase small starter plants instead, and simply shift them into your own containers; however, nothing tops the magic of watching sprouts spring up from the dirt.
2. Shop the farmers market.
During the colder months, options for local and seasonal food are a bit more limited. But this time of year is perfect for filling plates with fresh-picked fruits and veggies. Juicy tomatoes, tender squash, crisp corn on the cob — chances are, the stands at your local farmers market will be more stuffed than ever with prime produce in May and June, so ask the vendors what's best. Better yet, experiment with less familiar ingredients like purslane and rhubarb, and you might discover a new favorite plant-based meal. (If you need a rhubarb recipe, we recommend this crisp.)
3. Go fruit picking.
Speaking of summery desserts, few sweets can beat a berry tart or pie, particularly when you've picked the fruits yourself. Look up local "U-Pick" farms that allow visitors to gather their own berries. Cherries should turn sweet by May, while strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries will all be best come June and July. (Just check to make sure they're organic and not sprayed with fertilizers and pesticides.) You can also seek out peach orchards and inquire about their "bruised" bins — many farms will offer discounts on their "ugly" (but still totally tasty) harvests, which are perfect to cook into jams and pastries.
4. Attend a foraging meet-up.
Search online for foraging meet-ups or instructors in your area, so you can assemble with fellow nature lovers to scout for edible wild plants in your local environment. Whether you're located in a city, suburb or rural spot, you're surrounded by more feral food than you probably realize, from unacknowledged dandelion greens to hidden blackberries — it just takes a little skill and expertise to know how to spot them. That skill and expertise is key to avoid ingesting something harmful, of course, but with a little help, it's thrilling to realize how many gifts Mother Nature scatters in the places we forget to look. (And while you're at it, gather wildflowers for a vase on the kitchen counter.)
p.s. Don't forget to be good to the earth by lathering with an environmentally friendly soap.