Oh, spring! Oxford is so beautiful at this time of year, and every time I see the blossom out on the trees I get thrown into a spin of nostalgia for home. Spring is the most wonderful time in Tibet.
People say that spring comes to the south-eastern corner of Tibet, where I come from, before it reaches anywhere else. The peach blossom is seen as the messenger of spring, and it blankets the hillsides and valleys from March time.
My abiding memory of this time of year in Tibet is actually of the night. When we were camped out under the stars cooking up something steaming to warm our hands and bellies, you could see the blossom by moonlight as if the mountains were covered in snow. It was everywhere. It truly glowed by night. Another abiding memory is of nettle soup. It is said that Milarepa, Tibet's most famous poet and saint, lived solely on this soup for many years in his Happy Valley meditation cave, until he turned green.
Spring is the start of the nettle soup season in Tibet, as elsewhere in the world. It is the top young greens from the small plants that are used. These are boiled and then left to simmer for up to an hour, before pureeing to the texture and to some degree taste of spinach.
In Tibet, there is a meaty version of nettle soup that contains lamb. The meat is dried for close on a year, and added to the soup for texture and warmth. In Tibet it can be as hot in spring as it is during British summertime, but only during the day. If you are camped out at night watching the blossom, red meat helps a lot in the quest for warmth!