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Food and drink

Easter, naturally

Easter: time to celebrate all things "spring" and "renewal" as bits of life resurge around us after one mighty long, cold winter that, like a party guest wearing out her welcome, has finally and mercifully found her shoes and the door. Good riddance.

Depending on where you're at up and down the mountainsides to the sea, the wild woods are showing their spring barometers. The Indian plum is pushing out miniature green and white garlands, salmonberry bushes are showing tiny specks of green, and yellow cones of skunk cabbage are poking up their stinky heads.

Our gardens are also in spring mode, finally. My parsley, oregano, garlic chives and pot marjoram made it this year, but my rosemary bit the dust. On the positive side, the visual department more than makes up for the winter-kill as all that pent-up demand is delivering one outrageous outburst - tulips, daffies, the brilliant yellow Forsythia, even the pink of cherry blossoms are finally dotting the landscape of this late-arrival spring juxtaposed against an early Easter.

Soon it will be time for other green-growing, edible tips. Fiddleheads - so visually intriguing, but bitter. And asparagus, not yet up in Pemberton, so if you're going to have it with Easter dinner you'll be stuck with the stuff from California.

So what can you serve, naturally, for a dinner that will symbolize spring and keep palate and conscience happy? Thankfully, the Delta greenhouses have finally gotten enough sunlight to churn out some tasty local veggies, and while they may not be organic, at least you can be assured they can't use pesticides in greenhouses.

For one, look for Village Farms' mesh bags of tomatoes. I found mine at Save-On. Yes, Village Farms is a big outfit, but they do have greenhouses nearby in Delta - 110 acres of greenhouses, to be exact. When it comes to flavour, and who isn't wary of tomatoes this time of year, I'm munching one of their Mini Sensations tomatoes this instant and, dare I say, it's sensational. Almost as good as homegrown but, hey, those won't be around till August.

Here's another great find: Windset Farms' Fresco mini cucumbers, which come in a resealable plastic bag with air holes that you can wash and reuse - perfect for small greens you want to protect. Again, I found mine at Save-On-Foods, but look around for Windset's distinctive chartreuse and black label.

They're based in Abbotsford but they're also biggish in Delta, with 68 acres of greenhouses. As for the mini-cukes themselves, these things taste better than apples! Everybody who tries them gets hooked on their crispness and fresh flavour.

Add some locally grown greens - okay, so you didn't do a pot of mesclun on your windowsill this winter so the usual Earthbound Farms stuff will do - and some Pemberton potatoes, Lillooet carrots, down-home style hot cross buns from Sunflower Bakery and Café in Squamish, and Clapping Chimp's organic gala apples from the Similkameen that are still crisp and good (worth buying just for the graphic monkey on the bag) and you're on your way to assembling a pretty decent spring celebration.

If you're a meat eater, try to track down some non-medicated Fraser Valley-raised chicken, pork or lamb. One of your best bets is the Butcher on 10th in Vancouver, right on 10th Avenue near Sasamat.

The fun part - decorations and Easter eggs to hide for big kids and little ones alike - can also get funky and natural. Not that anyone wants to give up medicating with chocolate, but dying your own eggs is fun.

Look for fresh, local eggs. The trick to making good hard-boiled ones is not to boil them too hard or too hot or too long. If the water is bubbling too vigorously good chance the eggshells will crack. The older the eggs are, the easier it will be to peel them - old in this case means a few days in the fridge.

If you end up with a carton of super fresh eggs and have to use them right away, try adding a half teaspoon of baking soda to the water to make it a little more alkaline and your eggs will be easier to peel.

As for that greenish grey discoloration on the outside of the hard-boiled egg yolk, it will be kept to a minimum if you use fresh eggs, cook them as briefly as possible and cool them rapidly after cooking. The discoloration, by the way, is harmless.


Yes, you can get a dye kit from the store, but how about using stuff around your kitchen to dye Easter eggs? First wash the shells with warm soapy water so they will dye easily, then try the following for some beautifully coloured eggs.

Start with a handful, or about a quarter cup of each dye material, or a few teaspoons of spices in a saucepan and add about a cup of water, or enough so it covers the material by an inch. Bring the dye water to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat and simmer it for 15 minutes to an hour. The more dye material you add or the longer you simmer it, the more intense the dye will be. Once it's the colour you like, pour it through a strainer and into a measuring cup and add 2 to 3 teaspoons of vinegar for each cup of strained liquid. Pour the dye waters into small bowls that will make it easy to dunk your eggs. A slotted spoon works best. Use your old egg carton to hold the eggs till they dry. Play around with dabbing colours with sponges, or drawing on the eggs with crayons before you dye them. If you rub them gently with a bit of cooking oil, they will have a soft sheen.

Here are some ideas of materials and the resulting colours. But don't stop there - play with some of your own concepts and make your own spring celebration.

Blue: blueberries or their juice; boiled red cabbage leaves; purple grape juice.

Green: spinach leaves.

Violet or lavender: red wine; Red Zinger tea; small amount of red onion skins (boiled); a little grape juice.

Orange: carrots; paprika; yellow onion skins (boiled); chili powder.

Red: lots of red onion skins (boiled); pomegranate juice; raspberries.

Brown: instant coffee or strong coffee; black tea.

Pink: beets or beet juice; cranberry juice; raspberries.

Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning freelance writer who loves a little lamb.