Almost a month into Spring and I’m finally buckling down to write about eating for this season. Well, that is the nature of this season. Spring is about picking up the reigns and getting busy. Bringing out all the dirty laundry, and letting it air out. It gets dirty before it gets clean. Well, it got dirty, people. In defense of my tardiness, I have an additional excuse: living in upstate New York and getting a light dusting of snow today–it’s hard to tell it’s Spring. This week in weather aside, Spring did peak it’s head out briefly. And the transition to this season has already happened.
3 months of going inwards in winter prepared us for a time of renewal and growth. In Chinese medicine, this is a time for going up and out, when wind stirs vigorously, and when heat is on the rise. This time relates to the liver and wood. It is very easy for heat and wind to go overboard, which is why we see a lot of seasonal allergies with itchy eyes, runny nose, and sore throats at this time. Spring is the time when yang rises and yin is in decline. It is a time to take advantage of the extra yang energy and take brisk walks, clean out the house, and wake up early. The Persians probably have it right for their new year to begin on the Spring equinox–a much better time to make new year’s resolutions and actually have the appropriate energy to make them work. The transition can be quite jarring for people as it can be associated with decreased appetite, and time for self-awareness. As fresh plants start to poke up through the dormant soil, we are inclined to partake of more fresh produce, which having a cleansing effect. In fact, many cultures even encourage fasting around the time of the Spring equinox. After heavy meals in winter, it is appropriate to eat lighter meals with less animal products and more green vegetables. The Greek orthodox fast from animal products for 7 weeks, and Catholics eat lighter meals and less meat during lent. It is not surprising that traditional cultures would have practices that also help support the transition of yin dominance to yang dominance.
All year, the liver and gallbladder help us to digest and metabolize foods so that we can access nutrients and eliminate waste. Eating foods that support and cleanse the liver helps us to reset our metabolism at this time. Be careful about fasting. Fasting is not appropriate for everyone, or may need some professional guidance in order to do it safely. Mainly staying away from fatty foods or too much animal proteins for a set period of time will help cleanse the liver. This is also a time to employ more pungent spices in the food and replace salt. Use ginger, mint, dill, rosemary, tarragon, marjoram and basil. Pairing these herbs with a little natural sweetness can benefit digestion. Use honey in mint tea or balsamic vinegar in your salad. Chrysanthemum tea and salads with dandelion leaves are also appropriate at this time.
In terms of food preparation, raw foods are more easily tolerable in spring offering more time for other activity besides cooking. If raw vegetables are still hard to tolerate at this time, light cooking like steaming, boiling, and lightly sauteing for short times is appropriate.
Below is a varied but incomplete list of readily available spring foods. Eat more of these during this time and your liver and gallbladder will thank you. What are some of your favorite spring foods?
Readily Available Spring Foods
Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford