Green spring tonics are a time-honored tradition to encourage gentle liver and gall bladder renewal. Leafy greens, both wild and cultivated, are some of the most nutrient dense vegetables of all, and we'll discuss their nutrition as well as many other health benefits. This is a time when we transition from winter hibernation to summer growth.
Because we are part of the earth and its cycles, it's crucial to align with this seasonal change by supporting digestion and immunity. Certain foods and culinary herbs are specifically indicated for this transition. They tend to be ones that promote digestive and eliminative function, or strengthen the immune and endocrine (hormonal) systems. In Traditional Chinese Five Element Theory (TCM), the flavor of spring is sour.
The sour flavor and the wood element influence the liver and gall bladder. Sour foods include vinegar, sauerkraut (and other lacto-fermented vegetables), lemon, rye, turnips, greens, quinoa, fennel, and caraway seeds. Sourness has an astringent and consolidating effect in the body. It can control diarrhea and excess perspiration or help focus a scattered mind. Sour foods will help us harmonize spring.
In India's time-honored tradition of Ayurvedic Medicine, spring is known as the Kapha season. Kapha, the earth element, is heavy, grounded, and can feel stuck when it is out of balance. While spring waters are flowing and mud is everywhere, uplift your body, mind, and spirit with a daily walk, deep breathing, and sour food.
I was raised in the European/Mediterranean tradition, where we harvested dandelion greens each spring to make a bitter and delicious salad with olive oil, salt, vinegar, and grated carrots. I remember how much my grandmother loved vinegar. She dressed our salads generously with this sour liquid. Thank goodness for the carrots to temper the sour and bitter flavors for an overall harmonious effect.
Spring is a wonderful time to engage in a food meditation while cooking. As you chop, stir, and smell, try to be quiet and pay attention to the alchemy of cooking. This practice, along with the inclusion of sour foods and bitter greens, will help you feel more patient, calm, assertive, flexible, and alert. Try these recipes to inspire you and bring your body into harmony with the change in seasons.
Casserole of Leeks, Lentils, and Mustard Greens
You will need:
- 2 cups cooked red lentils
- 4 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large leek
- 1/2 teaspoon each: sea salt and black pepper
- 1 bunch fresh mustard greens
- 1 teaspoon each: cumin and coriander powder
- Juice of half a lemon
- 2 Tablespoons stone-ground mustard (no salt added)
- Cook 1 cup lentils in 5 cups water by bringing to a boil, reducing heat to medium, and skimming off foam until lentils are creamy and most of the water is gone.
- Then, chop 1 large leek into rounds.
- Heat olive oil in a skillet and add leeks.
- Reduce heat to medium low. Add salt, black pepper, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add mustard greens.
- Simmer for 10 more minutes or until most of the liquid has cooked out of the vegetables.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Grease a pie plate with olive oil.
- Mix cooked lentils with cumin, coriander, and a splash of lemon juice.
- Pour lentil mixture over the top of the greens and bake for 40 minutes. Serve with walnut leek pateÌ.
Walnut Leek Pate
- Chop one large leek into crescents and place in a skillet with olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Sauté for 10 minutes on low heat.
- Add a splash of lemon juice and turn off heat.
- While leek is cooking, place 1/2 cup walnut halves/pieces in a skillet.
- Toast on medium heat, tossing often with a spatula, for about 3 minutes or until walnuts are lightly browned.
- Once leeks and walnuts are cooked, place them in a food processor and add 3 Tablespoons olive oil. You can also place all ingredients in a deep bowl and blend with an immersion blender.
- Blend at highest speed for 2 minutes.
- Taste for salt.
Serve and enjoy with savory flatbreads or as a topping for a casserole!
Writer Lisa Mase is a culinary medicine coach, food writer, translator, and folk herbalist living in Vermont. For articles and recipes, visit Lisa at www.harmonizedcookery.com.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or to sell any product.