“Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child who knows poems by heart.” —Rilke
On this, the vernal equinox, we think flowers and adorable baby animals hopping and bumbling about, but one of the poems our planet knows by heart has to do with some much, much smaller things. These aquatic unsung heroes of spring are so vital to life as we know it that they deserve a place next to dyed eggs in Easter baskets around the world as icons of spring. They’re responsible for producing fifty percent of the oxygen in our atmosphere. They’re the foundation of the largest food chain on Earth and a superfood. They’re called phytoplankton, and they’re really making a splash in culinary circles.