Sunday, March 20, 2011

Signs of Spring-the Worm or Sap Moon and the Vernal Equinox

This week's signs of spring are celestial in nature; that amazing full ("super") moon last night and the fast approaching Vernal Equinox. I hope you were able to witness the extra large and extra bright moon, it was truly a beautiful site. The moon that proceeds the vernal equinox is known as the Sap or Worm moon. Sap simply refers to the time when the sap produced by trees starts "running" or moving up from the roots toward the soon to form buds , its most admired incarnation taking the form of maple syrup. The worm moon name refers to the fact that worms become active in the soil again; hence the robins you find on your lawn or the castings that suddenly appear on little bare patches of exposed soil.

For more information about the vital role that worms can play in the health of garden soil, read this great article from Mother Earth News about encouraging worm activity in your garden (the picture above is from this article).

I will post more on the vernal equinox and the start of spring in the very near future. For now, I want to honor last night's moon with a poem by Mary Oliver from her Twelve Moons collection and a recipe from Culinate featuring maple syrup.

Worm Moon (by Mary Oliver)


In March the earth remembers its own name.
Everywhere the plates of snow are cracking.
The rivers begin to sing. In the sky
the winter stars are sliding away; new stars
appear as, later, small blades of grain
will shine in the dark fields.

And the name of every place
is joyful.


The season of curiosity is everlasting
and the hour for adventure never ends,
but tonight
even the men who walked upon the moon
are lying content
by open windows
where the winds are sweeping over the fields,
over water,
over the naked earth,
into villages, and lonely country houses, and the vast cities


because it is spring;
because once more the moon and the earth are eloping --
a love match that will bring forth fantastic children
who will learn to stand, walk, and finally run over the surface of earth;
who will believe, for years,
that everything is possible.


Born of clay,
how shall a man be holy;
born of water,
how shall a man visit the stars;
born of the seasons,
how shall a man live forever?


the child of the red-spotted newt, the eft,
will enter his life from the tiny egg.
On his delicate legs
he will run through the valleys of moss
down to the leaf mold by the streams,
where lately white snow lay upon the earth
like a deep and lustrous blanket
of moon-fire,


and probably
is possible.

Lemon Maple Cake
From the recipe box spring, spring by Sarah Gilbert
Yield 2 layers or one bundt cake

I’ve been off processed sugar of all types for over a year; though it’s hard to avoid, especially when it comes to baked goods, which my kids and I love. I made this cake after altogether too many requests for $3 slices of (delicious, but sugar-packed) lemon pound cake from the farmer’s market. And even though maple syrup is very expensive; it’s $8.99 a pound for organic maple syrup at People’s Co-op; this cake ends up far cheaper than one from a bakery. If you don’t have lemon, you’ll want to replace at least 1/4 cup of the milk with plain yogurt, sour cream, creme fraiche, or buttermilk to provide an acidic element to react with the baking soda. (Or you can use baking powder, but it’s more fun my way, and you never have to buy baking powder.)

5 egg yolks
½ cup milk
1 Tbsp. vanilla
~ zest of one lemon
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
8 oz. maple syrup (about 1¼ cup)
12 oz. flour (about 3 cups; I use ⅔ whole wheat pastry flour and ⅓ brown rice flour)
2 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
¾ cup softened butter (really soft, even almost melty)

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2.Butter (and flour, if that’s your thing) either two 9” cake pans or a nice-sized bundt pan. I’ve also used an assortment of smaller cake pans (some of the ones that came in a child’s baking set from IKEA, for instance), and the kids are big fans.
3.In a medium bowl, mix egg yolks, ¼ cup milk, lemon zest and lemon juice.
4.In a separate large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt and mix well.
5.Add butter, remaining ¼ cup milk, and maple syrup, and mix using a stand mixer or a nice big whisk for a few minutes.
6.Add egg/lemon mixture in 2-3 batches, mixing after each addition.
7.Scrape batter into pans (you’ll want them ½ full) and bake until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 20-40 minutes depending on the size of your pans.
This content is from the spring, spring collection.
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