Flowers, Herbs and Spring Milk

Lee Smith

It’s like the world hit the refresh button. Everything is coming alive, babies are being born, daffodils and spring onions are peeping up through the soil that has been opened due to the freezing and thawing of winter months.

We’re very fortunate to live in a country where just about everything is available year-round, since retailers can source products from every region, every country around the globe. However, for those people who wish to follow the seasons, to celebrate local farms and appreciate a sustainable agricultural system, seasonality is something to cherish.

Artichokes, asparagus, fiddleheads, squash blossoms and dandelion greens are in early. In just a few weeks, farmers will be thinning traditional fall crops and true baby vegetables will make the scene.

Cheese also has its seasonality. It is now “kidding season”, and social media is filled with photos and videos of baby goats. Adorable in photos, they are much more lovable in person. Some farms are looking for people to spend a few hours loving on these babies, and I highly recommend it. Baby goats hop like bunnies and are just looking for love. This early socialization will mean less stress when they get older and people come around. Less stress means better, sweeter milk. Hence, better cheese.

Goats do not produce milk in the winter, although there are some ways to keep production going with frozen curd. However, for the most part, spring is when milk starts to appear. As much as I love summer tomatoes, my true love is the first seasonal goat cheeses. Young, usually two to three weeks old, they are sweet, tangy and very mild.

At this young age, they go with everything. One of my favorite breakfasts is a button of chevré served with good whole grain bread (especially if the bread has nuts or dried fruit), fresh strawberries and mango.

Lunch may be based around a salad or sautéed fiddlehead ferns on a bed of fresh greens. Again, I’ll take a fresh goat cheese, but a young, creamy cow milk cheese also works well. Sheep milk Feta also is delicious, and I find it delightful with strawberries, fresh herbs and a honey or fruit dressing.

Cow milk cheeses are a little different. Cheese made in the summer may be ready in the early spring. These younger versions of Alpine cheeses, such as Comté and Gruyère, or young Cheddars are milder and lack the complexity of their aged versions; however, they are the perfect pairing for the delicate flavors of spring. One of my favorite pairings was Gruyère with lightly pickled asparagus. I must say, it surprised me.

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