What You Can See on March 20
Submitted by Ted Williams on Mon, 03/20/2006 - 09:56.
From Audubon’s Earth Almanac by Ted Williams and compiled in “Wild Moments,” edited by Connie Isbell, Illustrations by John Burgoyne, Storey Publishing, 174 pages. Delicious Breath Unfresheners As mountain folk have long known, wild leeks are good for warding off rheum, ague, chilblains, collywobbles, and, especially, neighbors -- unless, as so frequently happens, all the neighbors are eating them at once. Breath fresheners they’re not, but leeks -- called “ramps” or “rampscallions” in the southern Appalachians where whole towns turn out for ramp-gathering/eating festivals -- are generally said to be the most delectable of all onions and garlics, wild or domestic. What’s more, they’re rich in Vitamins C and have the same capacity for reducing cholesterol as garlic. Striking green against the drab forest duff of early spring, these lovely, orchid-like members of the lily family abound in the deciduous woods of eastern North America. Look for the flat, rubbery leaves in moist, shady areas. Any doubt about what you’ve found will be thoroughly erased by crushing a leaf and inhaling the strong onion odor. Leek leaves and, later, their bulbs are superb in scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, soups, and casseroles or as onion substitutes in any recipe. Mini Monsters From Arkansas to the Pacific and from British Columbia to Guatemala horned lizards -- magnified monsters of choice in 1950s horror flicks -- are emerging from hibernation. Most taxonomists recognize 14 North American species inhabiting dry areas from oak-pine forests to thorn-scrub deserts. All horned lizards (or “horny toads,” as they also called) have wide, flat, spine-fringed bodies and tails, and heads crowned with sharp, demon-like horns; few adults are over seven inches long. Especially at this time of year these reptiles can be seen basking, their backs tracking the sun like solar panels. At night they stay warm by digging into the dirt, first cutting a trench with their snouts, then enlarging it with their sides. When it rains they tilt their heads down so that water runs off their backs and into their mouths. When set upon by predators they inflate their bodies like blowfish and, if pressed, squirt streams of blood from the corners of their eyes for distances of several feet. For these “tears of blood” Mexicans call horned lizards “torito de la Virgen” or the Virgin's little bull. Apparently the blood causes discomfort in attackers. A cat, thus anointed, was seen to froth at the mouth and roll.