It is winter in the Galilee. This morning as I looked out my window I smiled to see the gray sky showering rain down on all the dusty land around. Green pops up so soon after the rains begin. Swaths of grass roll themselves out on the hills around Nazareth. And in only a day or two of sun after rain, wild flowers of all kinds burst into bloom in all the corners of the land that used to house only dust.
From January and into the later spring months, flowers of all description, color and property begin blessing the land with their beauty and health. Particularly as February brings spring temperatures, the hills and fields of the Galilee burst with sun’s eye tulips, red buttercups, groundel, orchids, purple iris of all kinds, wild hyacinth, stunning blue lupin, and sweet-smelling narcissus.
Around the country, one of the first flowers to be spotted is the vivid yellow Spring Groundsel (Senecio vernalis). The bright petals remind us that the hot desert suns will come to stay with us for most of the year. For now, however, we enjoy this delicate bright green and yellow flower waving in the cool winter breezes and lapping up the winter rains.
Another yellow flower blooming in the winter and early spring months delights not only the eyes but also the tongues of many curious children. The Nodding Wood-sorrel (Oxalis pescaprae), although introduced from South Africa, is a dainty looking but hardy plant now common in the Galilee, Upper Jordan valley and as far south as Carmel. With a stem full of sour oxalic acid, the flowers may be detrimental to hungry livestock, but as a treat along the trail nothing beats the sour springtime flavor of wood-sorrel or the beauty of the willowy, yellow flowers blowing in the breeze.
With the winter and spring flowers come the renewal of hundreds of plants used in cooking. Rosemary’s light glow in winter, chamomile’s tiny blossoms, lavender’s bright purple blooms, and the pungent smells and dusty purple of sage excite the explorer and the chef alike. These herbs can be enjoyed throughout the year in a dried form, but as spring comes with the rain, flowers burst from the plants, turning heads and shouting the herb’s whereabouts.
As you hike through the hills of the Galilee this winter and spring keep your eyes out for the many colors nodding and bowing in the long green grass. Ask about the flowers and herbs from those who have grown up in these lands. They, like the plants they speak of, will probably have many stories to tell.