Wild spring greens for your health

05/05/2021

Spring is sprung! Take a look at the verdant new life sprouting around you. Many of the plants of springtime are not only uplifting, but also nutritionally perfect foods for this season. Forage responsibly and treat your body to nature’s intelligent multivitamin. 

In modern society, as well as in climates like ours, winter can almost be avoided. We keep our houses warm, use artificial light at night and eat any foods we want shipped from all around the world. A genuine experience of winter plays an important role in the cycle of the year. Traditional winters are about retreat. They are fueled by hearty root crops, dark greens and preserved meats, grains and vegetables. Long nights lead to less activity and blood flow, and the lymphatic system and liver can become sluggish. 

Spring is the season of initiation. Seed planting, eggs and birth are quintessential spring motifs; take time in spring to vision for the future. In spring, our bodies seek the nutrients they lacked in a traditional winter diet, as well as detoxification of the liver and stimulation of the blood and lymph. Our local spring greens may provide the solution. Fortunately, most all of these plants grow in abundance. Considerate foraging is important; I do not encourage taking plants where they are scarce. But since many of the following plants are considered invasive weeds, foraging them may not only be responsible, but also helpful! 

Keep your eyes out for miner’s lettuce—hydrating and rich in calcium and vitamin C. Cleavers and milk thistle, aside from being lymph and liver cleansers, are delicious in smoothies. Nasturtium flowers and leaves add spice and color to salads and are good sources of vitamin C. Wild onion lily is our most common local wild onion. The stems can be sautéed and the flowers sprinkled onto soups and salads for beauty, taste and blood circulation support. Nettles are delicious as soup, as a ravioli filling, or sautéed like spinach. They are loaded with minerals and excellent sources of chlorophyll, which is a blood builder. Their spikes break down after cooking or blending for safe eating, but can be therapeutic (though uncomfortable) when used topically. Touch nettle to any area of your body suffering from rheumatoid arthritis or poor circulation and experience a time-honored remedy. Nettles also contain medicine for a common springtime ailment: hay fever. Start drinking nettle tea three to four months before your allergies are expected to begin for the full benefit. 

To especially indulge in the medicine of springtime, eat sour greens like oxalis and sorrel. In traditional Chinese medicine, sour is the signature flavor of spring. Sour foods interact primarily with the liver and gallbladder and have a constricting and quickening quality. Sour activates, just like the season of spring. 

Humans and plants have evolved alongside each other for eons. At springtime, as in all times, the plants of now are nutritious gifts whose medicine for us is likely beyond what we know. Engage with the season through eating it, and you may feel supported to fully experience all that spring offers. 

 

Hilary Clair is a chef, dancer and somatic movement artist with a passion for understanding how anatomy and nutrition influence health. She lives in Forest Knolls.