March Madness — Day 7
Just beginning to creep back over the rocks with confidence, after gully-washing spring rains, branch lettuce (Micranthes micranthidifolia) — also known as lettuce leaf, saxifrage, brook lettuce, bear lettuce, wild lettuce, and mountain lettuce — is a true spring tonic.
Of course you can serve it up raw, mixed in with other spring greens, or as an addition to an egg salad sandwich, but most folks in the mountains prefer to fry it up in bacon grease with some chopped spring onions (or ramps) and a splash of vinegar for a version of “kilt (meaning killed, or wilted) lettuce”.
But first you have to find a “mess”, as a generous basketful is lovingly called. And that means traipsing up a holler, keeping your footing as you jump from stone to stone, until the stream you’ve been following becomes small enough to allow the roots of the lettuce to linger without being washed away with each deluge that may arise.
Once you’ve picked your heart’s desire, you may head back down the stream to the kitchen, or you can continue to head up the mountain with a picnic, into which you will tuck the delicate bitter greens, still pulsing vibrantly with life.
As you munch on this piece of the mountains, you meld into the mountains themselves.