Spring is Here!
What a wonderful time of year to talk about seasonal eating. As gardeners and farmers till the soil and sow their seeds, the weather warms and we begin to spend more time outside, plan picnics and enjoy the new life that Spring brings! This is a time of new beginnings and for shaking off the dust of winter, opening up and investing in new ideas and new habits.
Spring is appropriately associated with the color green, and many of the foods that are at their peak during the early part of the year are green: Granny Smith apples, Anjou pears, kiwi, lime, artichokes, arugula, asparagus, bok choy, broccoli, collards, chives, dandelion greens, parsley, peas, lettuce, spinach, bell peppers, etc. Additionally, Spring foods tend to be new crops or sprouts that grow upward out of the ground or burst from buds on tree branches. Many of these foods are sour like Granny Smith apples and limes. Sour foods invigorate and increase the secretion of gastric juices and strengthen digestion. Sour foods can also increase appetite, awaken the mind and the senses and tend to be cleansing, making them excellent medicinal foods for Spring.
What is Seasonal Eating?
Seasonal eating is a whole-foods approach to purchasing, preparing and eating delicious fresh foods that are naturally in season and available at the time of year that they are harvested. Nutrient density and flavor are typically high when plants are in season, and cost tends to be low, particularly if the food is also local.
Eating with the seasons is nothing new. It is a practice all living things participate in. Until recently, we have had no other choice but to eat seasonally. Our great-great grandparents were at the mercy of the soil, the elements, and the harvest. Many people in the world still live this way. They eat locally and seasonally, growing much of their own food. Industry has advanced to the point that food can be adulterated to last months (even years!), and we can eat any food whenever we want. Many of these foods are processed by heating, mashing, spinning and adding fillers, flavors, preservatives and colors to the point that they no longer resemble food!
It’s good to remember that there is still a physiological benefit to lightening our diets as the season changes. The foods we eat are digested and assimilated in our gastrointestinal tract. We chew our food, which travels through our esophagus to our stomach and on to the intestines. Before nutrients enter the blood stream from the intestines, they need to go through a “checkpoint” to make sure nothing funny gets into our blood – the liver. Our livers are amazing organs, but modern diets and lifestyles can put a lot of stress on them. Fatty, salty winter foods combined with little to no exercise during the winter can lead to a build up of toxins in the liver. Spring foods are often sour, and tend to have cleansing actions. If we choose to eat with the seasons, these new Spring foods will naturally cleanse our bodies of the heavy residues of winter and will lighten our load to prepare us for the vibrant energy of Spring! Fasting or cleansing are great ways of ushering in the Spring season. Also consider eating foods that are cooked briefly at higher temperatures, steaming or fermenting in order to bring balance to the body. If we acknowledge the natural schedule of our planet, we can reap the benefits of renewing our bodies in concert with the revitalization that Spring brings.
To learn more about seasonal eating through the lens of Traditional Chinese Medicine, download my Seasonal Eating Brochure – Spring 2014!