With the beginning of Spring, we become more lively and energetic. We naturally want to lighten up, expand and renew ourselves. The energy of Spring is ascending, active and about new beginnings. The green colour dominant in nature nourishes the soul, our appetite for rich warming food is decreased and the body starts a natural cleanse. The pleasant cycle of the season starts again and we see things in new ways.
Many people choose transitional seasons to cleanse, clearing out the old and preparing for the new.To gently encourage the renewal process and to rid the mind, body and soul of what is no longer needed, we must take care of the liver and gall bladder.
Bitter foods and herbs offer excellent liver-cleansing effects. Some of these foods are rye, quinoa, romaine, spring greens, asparagus, citrus peel, alfafa, chamomile flowers and milk thistle seeds. Including edible wild plants in your diet from your neighborhood is also helpful as they are usually stronger than cultivated varieties and you only need small amounts to be beneficial.
The sweet flavor in whole grains, legumes, seeds, carrots, beets and honey are helpful in harmonizing liver energy. Adding small amounts of the sour flavour by using apple cider vinegar, rhubarb, lemon, lime and grapefruit may help activating the natural detoxification process. Adding pungent herbs in your cooking like basil, fennel,caraway, dill, rosemary, garlic and onion will stimulate liver energy flow.
During the spring we can take advantages of the fresh green foods around us to lighten our bodies for the summer months ahead. A gentle whole foods detoxification can go a very long way to restoring harmony and health to your system. Green foods have heavy concentrations of chlorophyll that oxygenate the body and enzymes that rejuvenate the body. They are responsible for virtually every chemical reaction at the cellular level. Eat as many leafy green vegetables as you want, the deeper the green, the better! Mineral rich foods like root vegetables are also very important to include as they contain minerals essential to the optimal functioning of the body giving you energy and clarity.
Staying away from the most common toxic and inflammatory foods, ~refined sugar, artificial sweetener, alcohol,yeast, fried food, caffeine, homogenized dairy, gluten, processed foods, etc.~ increasing your intake of whole foods and keeping a balanced lifestyle are helpful ways to discharge accumulated toxins in your body.
Following a light whole food cleanse each season for a short period of time ~a week to 10 days~ give you an opportunity to find out more about your body and how you feel when you feed yourself highly nutritious foods. Once you are done, you may want to eat more in tune with the season, add more vegetables to your diet, and commit to eating less refined foods, sugar, wheat and salt. Reflect on what you learned from your own experience and continue to eat the foods that make you feel good and energized.
What foods work well for you on a cleanse?
Which foods will you continue to have on a regular basis?
This is a gentle yet effective infusion to support the liver, the organ associate with spring. The bitter herbs ~dandelion root and chamomile~ offer an excellent liver-cleansing effect, while the more pungent herbs ~spearmint- and lemon balm~ stimulate the liver out of stagnancy. The addition of honey and apple cider vinegar assures a smooth flow of emotional and physical energy and activates the detoxifying properties of this tea.
1 tablespoon dried spearmint or 1 fresh sprig ~ mine survived the winter so I used fresh spearmint
1 tablespoon dried lemon balm or 1 fresh sprig ~ I used fresh from the garden
1 tablespoon dandelion root~usually very easy to find at health food store
1 tablespoon chamomile flowers ~ I used dried flowers
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Raw honey to taste
1.In a medium sauce pan, pour 1 1/2 liter of water, add the dandelion roots, bring to a small boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
2. After 3o minutes, remove from the heat. Add spearmint, chamomile and lemon balm. Allow steeping for 20 minutes.
3.Strain and discard the herbs.
4.Drink warm or room temperature, preferably on an empty stomach throughout the day.
4.When serving, add 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon honey.
5.Keeps 2 days in the refrigerator.
Asparagus has often been praised as one of the most refined and delicious vegetables. Asparagus is a member of the lily family and a distant relative of onions. The cultivars range in colour from dark to light green through to violet and white. White asparagus have a milder flavour than the green asparagus and are more popular in Europe. In it’s growing stages, the stems are heaped with sandy soil to block out sunlight, preventing the chlorophyll to develop. The purple asparagus, less fibrous and higher in sugar is becoming more available at specialty food markets.
Asparagus botanical name “Asparagus Officinalis” means “from the dispensery“. It was a favourite among the Romans for it’s medicinal virtues and was used as a diuretic and a laxative. It was also thought to help with toothache, cramps and sciatica. Asparagus contains asparagine, an essential amino acid and the first to be isolated from it’s natural source early in the nineteenth century. Asparagine is also a diuretic that gives the urine a characteristic odor in people who lack the gene to break it down. This was first recorded in eighteenth-century Britain by Queen Anne’s physician!
Asparagus has remarkable immune-strengthening, antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties due to the bioflavonoids rutin and glutathione. It is high in protein, an excellent source of potassium, vitamin K, folic acid, vitamins C and A, riboflavin, thiamine, and B6.
In traditional Chinese medicine, asparagus are said to be a cooling yin tonic that energizes the kidneys, lungs and spleen. It also helps to dispel heat, damp and water.
In Ayurvedic, Asian asparagus are used for strengthening female hormones, promoting fertility, increasing lactation, and relieving menstrual pain. ~Shatavari is the Indian name and it means : she who possesses a hundred husbands.
The young stems of asparagus are preferably steamed, grilled or quickly boiled and served with butter, vinaigrette or hollandaise sauce. Asparagus pairs well with goat cheese, parmesan and pecorino cheeses, chervil, omelets, lemon, olive oil, shallots, pancetta, tarragon, and, white wine.
Asparagus, Lemon and Wild Rice Salad
This salad is a great way to signal that spring is here. The mung beans, wild rice and asparagus create a flavour that is both earthy and delicate while the lemon zest enliven the dish. Wild rice is very high in protein, minerals, and B vitamins. The small khaki Mung beans are the perfect beans for Spring; easily digestible, they are beneficial for the liver and gall bladder and detoxifies the body.
1 pound asparagus
2 cups steamed wild rice ~I used a blend of red rice, quinoa and wild rice
1 cup cooked mung beans~ you can cook the mung beans with the rice, add a little more water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
3 tablespoon finally chopped green onions or spring onions
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
Unrefined sea salt
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Making the dressing:
Whisk together green onion, lemon juice, and ½ teaspoon salt in a large bowl; season with pepper. Whisking constantly, pour in oil in a slow, steady stream; whisk until emulsified. Set aside.
Making the salad:
1.Snap of the tough ends of the asparagus. Cut the asparagus into 2 inch long pieces. Drop them into boiling salted water and cook for 1 minute, or until bright green and tender but still a bit firm. Rinse under cold water and drain well.
2.Combine the asparagus, wild rice, parsley, mung beans, and lemon zest in a large bowl.
3.Pour over the dressing and toss to combine.Adjust salt and pepper.
4.Line a serving platter with greens and put the rice salad on top.
Once again we shall
See the snow melt
Taste the flowing sap
Touch the budding seeds.
Smell the whitening flowers
Know the renewal of life.
~From an Anishnabeg (Ojibway) thanksgiving for spring.
Rhubarb has been grown for a long time in Asia as a medicinal plant. It originated from Siberia or Tibet and its Latin name signify barbaric roots. It is likely due to it’s infamous name that was not used in cuisine until the early 1800s. Today, there are two main species grown for culinary usage, Rheum Rhabarbarum and Rheum Rhaponticum.
Even if rhubarb is a vegetable, it is almost always used as a fruit to make pies, jams and compotes. Rhubarb may be harvested in the spring or fall but in the spring the quality is at its best. It is appreciated for its acidulous taste and the tannin that makes your mouth pucker up. Only the stalks are eaten and you should never eat the leaves; they have been associated with cases of poisoning due to their high concentration of oxalic acid.
Rhubarb is rich in potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium and in vitamin C and A. It is said to be astringent, laxative and purgative.
In Chinese medicine it is used as a cooling food to remove toxins and heat and helps blood circulation.
It also reduces vata when use a little at a time.
Creamy Roasted Rhubarb with Maple Syrup.
1 lb rhubarb, trimmed and roughly chopped
2 teaspoon unsalted butter
Plain or vanilla yogurt
Preheat the oven at 400 f. Place the rhubarb in a lightly buttered roasting pan, drizzled with maple syrup, and toss well. Roast for 15 to 2o minutes until tender. Place the rhubarb and juices in a bowl, drizzle with maple syrup and let cool completely.
Serve over yogurt with fresh mint, or add to a smoothie with blueberries, orange juice, roasted rhubarb and cinnamon.
Tender-handed stroke a nettle
And it stings you for your pains;
Grasp it like a man of mettle,
And it soft as silk remains
From the nettle’s lesson. Proverb, 1753.
Nettles (Urtica Dioica) are worth searching for; used throughout the world to build vitality, they are delicious and once cooked they have a delicate flavour and a pleasant texture. I always look forward to finding the first young nettles of spring to make soup, infusion or pesto; it’s a great way to mark the start of the growing year.
Nettle tops are best gathered- carefully- before they set flowers, nettle stings causes temporary burning and irritation so make sure to wear gloves. Avoid nettles close to roadsides and select only the fresh, young top growth. If nettle doesn’t grow where you live, you may find them at farmer’s market. Nettles lose their sting once chopped, dried, or cooked.
The nettle is a perennial plant full of iron, calcium, magnesium and nitrogen, which makes it incredibly nutritious for both plants and humans.They also increase circulation and provides external treatment for arthritic pain, gout, sciatica and neuralgia. Rich in minerals, they increase the hemoglobin in the blood, purify the system and have a generally toning effect on the whole body.
According to Chinese medicine, nettles are a yin and blood tonic that support the bladder, kidney, spleen, and liver. They also have diuretic properties and enrich the blood, thicken the hair and may help reduce blood sugar levels. Nettles reduce pitta and kapha and can be used, in moderation, by vata.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, cut in half
1 large potato, diced
2 cups blanched chopped nettles (if you can’t find nettles you can substitute them for more watercress, sorrel or chard)
1 cup parsley
1 cup radish greens, chopped
2 cups watercress
2 cups arugula or spinach
2 cups vegetable broth
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Few stems of fresh marjoram or oregano
1 inch stick kombu seaweed (optional)
Crème fraîche, chive blossoms or sweet violet for garnish.