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Spring Tonics – Urban Moonshine

Spring is a time of waking up; of bursting forth into the world. Winter’s stillness is replaced by a surge of energy and action.  It’s also a time of clearing out any clutter that has accumulated over the cold, dark slower months of the year. We harness the season’s energy as we embark on spring cleaning projects that come more as instinct than as obligatory tasks.  

It’s time to renew. This applies to our outer worlds as well as to our inner worlds. Spring has traditionally been a time to support the liver during this transition to spring. The natural world, with its infinite wisdom, provides us every opportunity to do just this. Bitter and nutrient-packed greens come to life, and for those of us paying attention to nature’s hints, provide us with delicious and nutritious Spring tonics.

Here are a couple of recipes that include some of our favorite spring tonic plants. Together they make the perfect light meal!

Spring Greens Salad

Dandelion greens are packed with vitamins and minerals, and also provide a bitter kick that helps support liver function.* It is important to  help support the liver after a winter of heavy foods and sedentary living  Violet greens and chickweed are super-packed with nutrients, making them just the spring pick-me-up your body needs.  Young greens of dandelion and violet especially are ideal, for both texture and taste reasons.  You’ll need to find a good place to harvest your wild greens–fields or lawns that are not sprayed and that don’t get a lot of dog traffic (i.e. avoid the side of a trail in a busy park where dogs constantly relieve themselves), and that are at least 20 feet away from the road.  Note that if you don’t have access to wild greens, most natural foods stores carry fresh dandelion greens.  You can eat them straight up or replace the violet and chickweed with any other salad greens.

  • 1 cup of young dandelion greens
  • ⅓ cup of young violet leaves
  • ⅓ cup chickweed (optional-if you can find it)
  • ¼ cup grated carrot
  • a handful of violet flowers as garnish
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar, raw
  • 1 tbsp tamari
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste (note, you may not need to add salt due to the tamari)

(Note, this recipe makes dressing for more than one salad. Keep in the fridge for up to a week for more salads!)

Mix the greens and grated carrot in a salad bowl. Whisk together all ingredients for the dressing. Add 3 Tbsp of dressing to the greens, tossing well. Sprinkle violet flowers over the greens and then serve.

Spring Cleaning Soup

With the probiotics of miso, the prebiotics and bitter flavor of burdock root, the nutrient density of nettles, and the warming support of ginger, this simple soup is nirvana for any body ready for a gentle reset.  For the nettle tops and burdock, follow the same guidelines for wild-crafting from the recipe above, or purchase from your local farmer’s market or natural foods store.  While many herbalists suggest harvesting burdock in the fall, spring-dug burdock is generally more bitter making it an excellent liver tonic.*

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup (packed) chopped nettle tops, stems removed (you may want to wear gloves while handling the nettles to avoid getting stung!)
  • ¼ cup grated burdock
  • 1 tsp chopped garlic
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil

Bring water to a boil on stovetop. Add nettles, reduce heat to medium low and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Add burdock and garlic and simmer, covered, for another 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add grated ginger and sesame oil.

In a small bowl, combine miso paste with ¼ cup of hot liquid from the soup, using a spoon or fork to fully incorporate the miso into the water.

Return the miso mixture to the soup pot. Stir well and serve.

Updated February 2020; originally published in 2015 by Rachael Keener

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