Friday, May 1, 2009

May Day – and Happy Birthday, Jade!

May Day was one of my favorite holidays as a child, though there wasn't much to it, except the story of May Day as a holiday celebrated by my mother. When she was young, children made little May baskets out of paper, filled them with flowers, and left them as gifts on the door handles of neighbors' houses. I wished we celebrated that way too, and a few times, with mom's guidance, we did. I remember making a May basket for my beloved first grade teacher, Nila Boehmke, a couple of years after I left her class, filling it with grass, lilies of the valley, and violets.

Soapmaker Laura (who is also a playwright) made the wonderful carrot soap I'm now using, purchased on Etsy at Urban Eden. She recently posted a recipe for candied violets on her facebook page, along with the photo above:

The easiest is to brush lightly whipped egg whites onto freshly picked violets, then sprinkle them with superfine sugar. Set them on wax or parchment paper for at least a day to dry.

I've seen other recipes involving bleach to avoid salmonella, but I didn't bother because I'd rather eat fresh local egg whites than bleach. And there's another method involving sugar syrup instead of egg whites, but it's a little more complicated.

I've read it's best to pick the violets early in the morning.

Our yard is currently filled with blue and yellow violets, lilies of the valley, and a few sweet dandelions. Here is more from Laura about violets:

What else can you do with violets besides candying them? Eat the fresh leaves and flowers (super high in Vitamins A and C), make violet tea (leaves and flowers) and make skin-soothing salves from the leaf--especially if combined with plantain leaves. But avoid them if you're allergic to aspirin: some of their soothing qualities come from their high salicylic acid content.

These days, May Day is sweet for another reason – it is the birthday of our youngest niece Jade, lover of toads (and all animals), musician, and visual artist. Here's a beautiful photo my mother took of Jade with one of her toads – and a big shout out to her!

It's perfect that Jade was born on May Day, as she has an instinct to make gifts and other things from materials offered by the natural world – pine cones, shells, stones, and flowers. I wish I could sit with her today at a big table, making May baskets, learning more about her toads, and taking a walk, collecting treasures.

1 comment:

wk said...

May baskets in my boyhood town, Cando, were used as requests for a kiss. We made the baskets of folded crepe paper, filled them with candy and a flower if we could find one in bloom, (often a dandelion bloom), and set the basket on the stoop. We rang the bell or knocked on the door, and when the intended came to the door, we began running slowly away. The basket receiver gave chase and caught us. My teacher, Gladys Frost, caught me and gave me a not so frosty kiss on the cheek wk