Name: Chorispora tenella Family: Brassicaceae Common names: musk mustard, blue mustard, purple mustard, crossflower

Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) season is just around the corner. The very best way to find the maximum amount of asparagus is to have all of your spots mapped out before the growing season begins. Once asparagus starts up, the surrounding plants are usually tall and green enough to make finding the new spears a true Where's Waldo experience, even when you know that you are looking right at them. This is why it helps to scout for asparagus in the off-season, locating old asparagus skeletons while they stand out against the winter landscape. If you do the legwork now, when those fat beauties start pushing out of the ground, you will know exactly where to return to find them.

I've been out foraging for about a week now. Mostly, I'm cruising the trails and checking progress at my favorite spots. It's still largely brown out there. Nonetheless, I'm coming home with small handfuls of greens. The snows have brought good moisture, the intervening days are warm, and the plants are slowly starting to respond.

The snows have changed. They've made the transition from the icy powder of winter to the trademark water-balloon flakes of springtime in the Rockies. The push-pull of spring here can be maddening - one day filled with blowing snow, the next by brilliant sun that melts any trace of accumulation before noon.

I refuse to give in to any temptation to hate winter, even during the gloomiest stretches of flat light and dirty snow. I like the snow. I like the quiet. I like sitting next to the frozen pond while geese murmur to each other. I'll try not to go to the extreme of getting overly romantic about winter, but it is my second-favorite season, even if I don't get to spend as much time as I'd prefer fiddling with plants.

I'm a little late with the year-end review-type posts. Oh well, nobody has time to read during those last few weeks of the year anyhow, right? Here are my best recipes from last year, as determined by... well, my taste buds.

Here I am holding a prickly pear tequila sunrise cocktail on nearly the shortest day of the year. It is a beautiful drink, with bright fuchsia prickly pear syrup blending into freshly squeezed orange juice like a warm rainbow. It's cold outside, having just come off a week that never got above freezing. The wind seems relentless, and my eyes reflect dull shades of gray and brown. However, with my cactus cocktail in hand, I can only be reminded of that perfect fall day picking prickly pear fruit, just a few months ago.

When I was a girl, I yearned for certainty. Things needed to be named. Distances and concepts bridged with equations. I desired to know the exact composition of gases in the stars, and how long it would take me to travel to them. I needed answers.

I really only have three words for you today - make this now.

Once again, that time of year has arrived - the time when there isn't much outside to forage, and I need to turn to my pantry for wild foods. Thankfully, as always, I did a good job of putting up food throughout the growing season. I think you'd be shocked to see just how much food is in my pantry. I've got wild plants stuffed into every corner, some dried, some canned, some frozen, and others pickled. My most prized pantry staple are my dried porcini (Boletus edulis) mushrooms. They are one of the most flavorful foods I've ever tasted, and can punch up even the most bland foods.