SPOTTED: Familiar Springtime Faces… and side-dishes.

SPOTTED: Familiar Springtime Faces... and side-dishes. | StayingSouthern.net

Viola tricolor or Johnny Jump Up

There’s nothing like a relentless winter to make me leap for joy when I finally spot a couple of tiny, familiar springtime faces in the yard.

As pretty as the flowers are, Johnny Jump Ups make a tasty little treat, too. Members of the same perennial family such as sweet violets, violas and pansies are edible as well. The most common way to integrate the colorful blooms into a meal is as a garnish or in a salad. They also make delicious spreadsjellies and even vinegar. Sweet violets (Viola odorata) can be used in tea, syrup and cakes or even candied.  While the sweet violet flowers taste slightly perfumed, their leaves are tart.

 Johnny Jump Ups have even been known to treat epilepsy, asthma and eczema.

For best flavor, harvest newly bloomed flowers in the morning. This is when the oils are most concentrated and blooms look their best. The more you harvest, the more flowers will grow.

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Spanish moss attracts more than just Southerners

There I was, standing in the checkout line at WalMart in Bend, OR.

I looked like a Creole doomsday prepper with a grocery cart full of canned goods; mostly black-eyed peas and French cut green beans. I live in the sticks. When you live way out of town, you have to stock up on certain necessities – my household is never without black-eyed peas.

We do silly things sometimes when we miss home. | StayingSouthern.net

Spanish moss is a perennial epiphytic herb. It is not Spanish, nor a moss, but a flowering plant.

Two checkout lanes over to my left, I saw a woman about my age. In her cart, I spotted a MiracleGro package that said, clear as day, “SPANISH MOSS.”

My heart stopped.

My thoughts began to swirl:

She must be from the South.

Only someone who is desperately homesick for the South would try to grow Spanish moss in this high desert climate. Maybe I should try it in my garden this year.

She looks really happy and smiley. And she’s curled her hair and wearing a lot of eyeliner. Yep. Definitely a Southerner.

She probably just moved here from South Carolina and misses home.

We do silly things sometimes when we miss home. | StayingSouthern.net

(janeluriephotography.wordpress.com)

Hmmm. She might not be very bright if she plans on hanging Spanish moss from Ponderosa pines. I won’t hold that against her. We do silly things sometimes when we miss home.

And boy, do we.

I heaved my cart full of canned goods out of line and pushed it over to the woman.

“Excuse me, miss?” I said.

She interpreted my salutation as a request to get out of my way. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said as she began to wheel her cart backwards.

“I am just wondering… Are you trying to grow Spanish moss here?” I asked.

She worked for a daycare and this week’s craft project was constructing fairy houses. Apparently, fairies have roofs made of Spanish moss. They must be Southern, too.

“Oh,” I said.

I retreated back to my checkout lane.

It’s true – we do silly things sometimes when we miss home, like approach strangers in WalMart. But in my defense, in the South, asking a complete stranger about their gardening plans is perfectly acceptable. Southerners go on living like they are in the South, even if they’re not.

We do silly things sometimes when we miss home. | StayingSouthern.netMy attempt to find a kindred Southerner may have been thwarted, but it won’t stop me from being just as friendly in the future. It also won’t deter me from possibly building some small, Spanish moss-covered houses to attract Southern fairies.