This is a time when we transition from Winter hibernation to Summer growth. Because we are part of the earth and it cycles, it’s crucial to align with this seasonal change by strengthening digestion and immunity.
Certain foods and culinary herbs are specifically indicated for supporting 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.
Creamy Green Sauce
Place two halves flat on cutting board and slice each one into thin crescent moons. Follow the ridges of the onion when chopping.
Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a skillet that has a matching lid.
When oil is hot, add onions, stir briefly with spatula, turn burner down to medium-low, and cover.
Add a splash or two of water.
Add salt and black pepper.
Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water if onion is sticking to the bottom of the skillet.
Meanwhile, cover the bottom of a medium stock pot with water and add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil.
Add greens to the pot, cover, and reduce heat to low. Braise greens for 5-10 minutes.
Add greens to onions. Stir well to incorporate and purée with immersion blender or food processor.
Enjoy as a condiment for grains, as a delicious sauce for salmon, and as a sandwich spread.
Walnut Leek Paté
While leek is cooking, place ½ 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 biscuits or savory breads or as a dip with steamed broccoli. Keeps in the fridge for one week.
Harvest as many fresh, tender dandelion greens as you can. Aim for about 3 packed cups.
In a food processor or blender, blend into a thick paste:
¼ cup best olive oil (labeled with acidity of less than 0.5%)
3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
½ teaspoon salt
Add dandelion greens. Pulse to incorporate.
Freeze large batches or enjoy with sourdough rye bread, over freshly cooked quinoa, or as a topping for poached white fish or white beans. Keeps in the fridge for one week.