Life on Regal-Hill: May 13, 2009

We could use a good rain here at Regal-Hill. I really don’t want to start watering so soon.
Apparently there has been enough rain for the shadblows, sometimes called the shad tree, to appear. The shadblows are the pin cherry trees when they are in blossom.
If you look at the hills and mountains around you, you can quickly spot the light greenish-white blossoms, as they are the first trees to blossom and the only ones to blossom before their leaves have appeared. After they blossom, the leaves begin to grow and from a distance they soon look like any other deciduous tree. In perhaps a week’s time the blossoms begin falling and is seems almost like it is snowing. Thankfully it isn’t snowing, especially if the temperature is 50 degrees or warmer.
Around here there seems to be a number of pin cherry trees. There is an especially nice tall, evenly branched one behind our house that I enjoy every year. I can see it from the windows at the back of the house in the kitchen, also from the sink. So when I am washing dishes or preparing vegetables I can look out and see it whenever I want to.
Before long the tree will have small, sour, red cherries on it that attract the birds, such as the cedar waxwing, will show up for a special meal. The birds are very interesting to watch as well.
Here it seems like the shadblows are just another sign of spring, besides the summer birds who like sour cherries.
Now that spring is well underway, we can begin using wild plants in our meal preparations. Leeks or ramps, fiddleheads and morels, a kind of mushroom, are now ready to use in your cooking. When I looked up wild leeks online I also learned that leeks have a reputation as a folk medicine that is a powerful healer. They are high in Vitamins C and A and are also full of minerals that our body needs for good health. Leeks also have the same capacity as garlic to reduce cholesterol. There seems to be a number of recipes for leek soup. Try these recipes and enjoy.

Leek Soup with Brie Toasts
6 medium leeks (white portion only) thinly sliced
1/2 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons plus 6 teaspoons butter, softened, divided
7-1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
12 slices French bread or bread of your choice (1/2-inch thick)
1 round (8 ounces) Brie cheese cut into 1/4-in. slices
In a Dutch oven, sauté the leeks, mushrooms, garlic, tarragon and pepper in 2 tablespoons butter for 8-10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in flour until blended; gradually add broth and cream. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.
Lightly toast the bread on a baking sheet. Spread one side of each slice with 1/2 teaspoon butter. Place Brie on the buttered side of toasts. Broil 3-4 in. from the heat for 1-2 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Ladle the soup into six 8-oz. bowls; place two toasts in each bowl.
Yield: 6 servings
2009 Taste of Home Annual Recipes

Russian Leek Soup
5 tablespoons butter
2 cups leeks, chopped
1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1-1/2 cups carrots, thinly sliced
6 cups chicken broth OR 1 can of 49-1/2 ounces
2 teaspoons dill weed
1-2 teaspoons salt OR to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
5 cups potatoes, diced
1 cup half-and-half
Melt butter in large skillet; sauté leeks, mushrooms and carrots for 5 minutes. Stir in broth, dill weed, salt, pepper and bay leaf. Add potatoes; cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Add half-and-half; cook until thickened.
Yield: 8-10 servings
Country Woman, date unknown