As we begin to loosen from our cocoons of warm blankets and wool sweaters to venture out and enjoy the first stirrings of spring, it’s a good time to do the same internally with our blood quality. As you clear last year’s debris from the garden, or perhaps take a spring walk through areas less traveled, pay attention to the vegetation that rears up from the cool moist soil. Many of the so-called “weeds” are perfect foodstuff for aligning ourselves with nature’s tick tock.
Generally during the colder seasons we eat foods cooked in ways that make us feel warmer and hold more energy within our bodies. Who doesn’t enjoy a thick bean soup, hearty stew or baked casserole during the winter? We tend to cook our food longer and use more oil, both of which help us stay warm. Then there is the holiday fare of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s when we often celebrate with special foods and tantalizing desserts. All this is well and good, and very enjoyable. However, about the time we box up the decorations, have you ever noticed that there is the inevitable mysterious flu virus that descends upon much of the population? There is always the speculation of which foreign country originated the hated virus. Perhaps we had best look in our own back yards for the source and well as the cure.
Actually, those who contract viruses at this time of year, might show a tiny bit of gratitude, because those pesky ‘bugs’ roll up their sleeves and get to work spring cleaning the excesses we have shoved into the ‘liver closet’, stored in the ‘intestinal garage’ or accumulated in the ‘lung attic’ over the past few months. With the ”joy” of tissues in hand, or experiencing diarrhea, headaches or fever, our bodies’ response to those little buggers helps clear the pathway to springtime from sluggish blood quality, congested lungs and livers, and other ‘junk drawers’ within our bodies.
Some of the best things in life are free, and many common “weeds” fall into this category. They are just there for the picking. So before you yank, compost or mow take a closer look and see if you can identify some of these beneficial common weeds. All of them are rich in chlorophyll, which is very nourishing for the liver. They tenaciously draw up bio-available trace minerals from the subsoil, which strengthen our immune systems and alkalize our body fluids.
Because they are nutritionally rich and strong energetically, use common sense and don’t over-do it. Forage wild greens from areas that have not been sprayed or the ground subjected to chemical pollutants. Also choose areas that are not high automobile traffic areas or subjected to feedlot run-off.
Here are three of my favorite common and wayside “weeds”.
Dandelion – serrated leaves with the crown close and flat to the ground. Flowers are golden yellow and produce a round ball of fluffy parachute type seeds. Beneficial for the liver, building red blood cells and a general tonic. Bitter flavor.
Wild fennel – Early in the spring, feathery shoots grow up from the base of last year’s plant. Pick the tender shoots and add a small amount to stir-fried veggies or a pressed salad. Has a mild, slightly sweet anise flavor. Clears heat from the liver, beneficial to the stomach/spleen/pancreas.
Wild mustard – Pick smaller, younger leaves for greens and pinch off stems of yellow blossoms. Blanch, pickle or add to pressed salads. Spicy, pungent flavor. Targets the liver and clears mucous from the lungs.
Our daughter invented this recipe when she was only 5!
4 cups napa cabbage cut into 1 inch squares
2-3 green onions
1 -2 sprigs of wild fennel, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon sesame oil or olive oil
Soy sauce to taste
1. If the green onion roots are thick and fresh, finely mince the roots and discard the juncture between the roots and onions.
2. Trim the tips of the green onion if they are damaged. Slit the white portion of each onion in half length-wise. Line up the green onions and cut into 1½ inch lengths. Place the white portion separate from the green portion.
3. Have the chopped vegetables arranged in sections on a plate, as the cooking goes very quickly.
4. Warm the oil in a skillet. Add the minced green onion roots and quickly sauté.
5. Add the Napa cabbage and white portion of the onion and quickly sauté over a medium high heat, stirring. This takes no longer than 30 seconds to one minute, just until the color starts to brighten.
6. Add the green portion of the onion and the fennel. Turn off the heat.
7. Drizzle with soy sauce and cover with a lid for short time.
8. Remove lid and serve.
Pick only tender small leaves, tender flower stems and tender flower bud stems. Place in a bowl of water and lift out and drain. Repeat until clear.2 cups tender wild mustard green leaves and flower stems,
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons barley malt syrup (optional)
1 teaspoon ginger juice
1. Coarsely chop any larger leaves. Leave the flower stems and flower buds intact
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2. Place mustard greens and salt in a bowl. Knead the salt into the mustard greens until they become wet and the juicy. Squeeze out the excess liquid and discard.
3. Add the soy sauce, sesame seeds, barley malt and ginger juice.
4. Mix together until the barley malt dissolves.
5. Pack in a small jar and push down the ingredients with a wooden pestle or wooden spoon, such that liquid rises to cover the mustard greens.
6. This may be served 30 minutes later or kept in the refrigerator to pickle. It will keep as a pickle up to three months.
7. Serve one Tablespoon as a condiment along with a meal. It is also delicious as a substitute for wasabi in a nori sushi roll, as the flavor is deeply pungent and spicy.
For the mildest flavor and most tender greens harvest dandelion plants before flowering. The leaves may be picked and used for this recipe, or the entire plant may be dug and the roots used also. Place the dandelion plants in the sink or a large basin of water. Remove any debris and brown or yellow leaves. Wash off any soil from the roots. Lift the dandelion from the water and place in a colander. Change the water and repeat until the water is clean and free of sand and soil.
4 cups dandelion greens chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
dandelion roots, finely minced
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon barley miso
1. Hold on to the root and chop the green part into small pieced starting from the tips
of the leaves, chopping toward the root. Set the roots aside.
2. Bundle the roots and mince into fine pieces.