Spring is here!
The maple trees in our woods are adorned with buckets of sap and our outdoor “sugaring stove” was fired up all weekend. Let me tell you, there is nothing better to fill your water bottle with this time of year than with sap water, a sweetness I would compare to coconut water, if you have never tried it before. Here in Shawangunk country (the region surrounding the mountains of Ulster County) our days alternate between below freezing to temperatures in the 40’s. Bird songs that I haven’t heard in many months are beginning to build a morning chorus and buds are appearing on trees. Spring is here!
March can be a tease of a month. So many of us are more than ready for winter to be over and craving opportunities for more physical movement and fresh food. I like to think of this month as a preparatory time for the increased activity of spring. If we practice some simple care now, then we’ll be set to hit the ground running when the season of bliss comes to stay. Here are 3 simple kitchen-based practices to prep you for spring.
Feed Your Inner-Self
I don’t mean this just figuratively. Research says that our nervous system lives in the gut and is comprised of more bacteria than our own actual cells. The easiest way to feed the diverse ecosystem that makes us who we are is to eat a variety of whole foods and include daily doses of fermented foods. I use fermented foods as condiments and feel no meaI is complete without a pinch of kimchi or a spoonful of adzuki bean miso. I adore Sandor Katz’s books on fermentation where he shares both the anthropological history of fermentation, as well as easy to follow, delicious recipes. I’m back to brewing kombucha again, this time “jun” brewed from green tea and honey, and loving how it makes me feel. . By bringing pre-biotics (food for the pro-biotics) and pro-biotics into our daily routine, we feed our whole selves (us and our bacteria.)
Love That Liver!
The amount of functions that this humble organ does for our body is mindblowing. Number one on the list is detoxifying our bodies from toxins in our environment, everything from car exhaust to food additives. The liver is elegantly designed to do this work and we can help it along by eating foods and herbs that are liver supporting. Early spring has always been an important time of detoxification for humans and animals. In paleolithic times, people sustained themselves off of dried food and soups with little movement during the winter. The coming of spring provided welcome liver nourishment in the form of bitter spring greens. While we are still a little far off from eating wild greens, we can reach to store bought (or greenhouse grown) arugula and dandelion greens for support. Tinctures and teas of bitter herbs are also a wonderful adjunct right now. Look to bitters from your local herbalist, Urban Moonshine and Herbal Revolution if you aren’t mixing your own. Bitters can be taken daily before meals to give your liver the love it deserves. Burdock, dandelion, turmeric, artichoke leaf and blue vervain are just a few wonderfully bitter herbs. Giving your liver a little extra care now can also really help make allergy season more bearable. The liver helps to process the airborne pollen and the cascade of inflammation that happens in the body to those prone to allergies. If the liver has the support it needs many find that their allergy symptoms are lessened.
Increase Colorful Foods
There is a growing movement to eat like our ancestors, to be more “paleo.” It is important to remember that we all have different ancestral lineage and there is no one diet that is good for everyone. One thing that all our original ancestors had in common was that they were hunter gatherers, which allowed for a much greater diversity in plant foods. Tubers, grasses, berries and various parts of a wide array of plants were taken into the diet on a daily basis. Today many of us aim to eat fruits and vegetables yet we often fall back on the same two or three and miss the wide range of options available. Each color of a natural food represents the different nutrients that it provides to us. Orange provides beta carotene and blue/purple (especially in grapes and berries) are high in anti-oxidants. By looking at each meal as a blank canvas and trying to add as much color as possible, we bring our bodies the range of vitamins and minerals that they crave. I invite you to get creative and embrace ROYGBIV!! Once more simple addition is to increase hydration. My favorites are water, herbal infusion and green tea. A twist of lemon adds electrolytes, detoxification power and activates the catechins (antioxidants) in green tea.