I grew up in the city. I knew the difference between a lawn covered with grass, a bush on the side of the lawn, a tree on which branches grew leaves, and flowers called pansies that grew in the window box off of my bedroom. Those four words, grass, bush, tree and pansy made up my entire botanical vocabulary.

Greg grew up in the country, fishing in farm ponds, running across fields and pastures and climbing farm fences. I remember when we first married that I measured the depth of his love by the fact that he willingly moved into the heart of the city to be with me, but I also remember how I would often find him sitting on the back porch, looking out across our city yard watching the squirrels and pigeons and dreaming of a different life.

Both of our hearts are now deep in the country, and in truth, both of our hearts have grown daily over the 16 years we have called the creek valley home. I could never have imagined the wealth of our creek world back as I walked the cement sidewalks of my city life. Sure, there was an old redbud tree that grew just off to the side of the front porch (my fifth botanical word, but only because a neighboring city street was named Red Bud).

I remember the purple flowers as they blossomed each spring and fell to cover the driveway. I thought that they looked pretty, but I really did not know the tree at all. I actually considered it somewhat of a nuisance, as the red flowers fell all over my car and the children were always tracking them into the house. Now, I smile to see the redbud trees blossom and at the edges of our farm fields, and I no longer consider the red, almost purple flowers, a nuisance.

Several years ago, Greg and I drove two hours east along the river to an old schoolhouse where a very special woman, Edelene Wood, was giving a talk on wild edibles. Those of you who often read my stories know that I rarely mention names, but Edelene is so wonderfully worthy of mention that I have broken my steadfast rule.

She is a magical mountain lady, born in 1922, who knows the mountains and hills of the river and creeks as though they were her life’s blood. She has authored a magical book titled “A Taste of the Wild,” that sits by my bed. I love to turn the pages and learn.

So when I heard that she was giving a talk, I jumped at the chance to meet her and hear her speak. Greg and I and about 60 others sat on wooden folding chairs, on a wood gymnasium floor in front of an old wooden stage. Edelene stood before us, energetically sharing her love of the woods. Red bud boughs decorated the stage behind her. After talking for perhaps 15 minutes, she reached back behind her and plucked a red bud bough from a vase. She continued to speak as she nibbled in the bough’s flowers. Then she smiled, and said “Oh how selfish of me” and she leaned down to pass the bough to the first person seated in the row before her.

Edelene cautioned us to eat just a few of the red flowers if we had never eaten them before to make sure that we were not allergic to the buds. I could hardly wait until the bough reached our row. I was delighted to find that the flowers had a gently bitter, almost citric taste.

I now know that we can nibble on the red flowers as we walk along the creek, or I can bring a bough home and add the flowers as a pretty addition to a spring salad. I have learned that the buds can be made into a wonderful jam, added to red jello, and even pickled with cloves and a bit of cinnamon. More simply, the flowers can be frozen into ice cubes and added to summer's first fresh mint tea. Even the new green pods can be eaten raw and simply dipped into a favorite sour cream or cheese dip.

It seems to be the rare day that we do not learn something new along the creek. I know that I will never live long enough to learn everything, but the learning is such a wonderful adventure. And I smile to think that even though there is so much that is still so very new to me, the knowledge of the creek valley woods was learned by folks hundreds if not thousands of years before.

Perhaps my country neighbors have known that redbud flowers and pods are edible. Perhaps not, but maybe now, as the redbuds bloom all across the county, folks will stop by and gather a few blossoms to garnish a dinner salad, or perhaps a few weeks from now, folks will dip a few fresh green redbud pods into their favorite dip. And even if folks are not able to stop and harvest the blossoms or pick the young pods off of a redbud tree, I know that everyone will smile at the beautiful bounty of our countryside as the redbuds light up the new spring green growing all around us.