After a winter of feasting on the abundance of our stored harvest, there comes a time in mid March where the body goes full-on into craving fresh leafy greens in abundance. The winter high tunnel has but meager offerings left (especially after this particularly long winter) and the promise of the year’s salad garden lies too many weeks away. This is when I start counting the days to dandelion harvest. Spring is the perfect time to ease up on the heavy warming foods of winter and transition into lighter fare to support the body’s efforts at detoxification, especially that of the liver. The best plant allies to harness for a Spring cleanse are the fresh leafy greens of the season.
The humble dandelion is the star of my annual 3 week Spring cleanse – its bitter greens being an excellent liver and digestive tonic, supporting kidney and bowel elimination, and chock full of bright green juicy energizing and detoxifying chlorophyll. They are one of the first greens to emerge after the snow recedes, usually by the middle of April. They are everywhere! Every morning, I set out on my daily forage, collecting enough greens for the day’s breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Early in the season the greens are most tender and have a milder flavor than when they are fully mature. Nab them early for their finest delicacy of spring green. As their season progresses so does their bitterness. Early on they do well as a salad green provided you add things to soften their edge – avocado, eggs, chickpeas, sunflower seeds are a few of my favourites. Unlike other salads, they won’t need much vinegar. Often a simple splash of highest quality olive oil and a sprinkle of salt are all that is needed. As their flavor becomes more intense, they do well added to a soup or stew, rice, potatoes, pasta, chickpeas or other legumes. Think classic Italian pairings of pasta and greens, beans and greens and you will be loving them.
RASPBERRY DANDELION SMOOTHIE
My favourite dandelion greens smoothie this year included raspberries. We still had plenty in the freezer thanks to an abundant raspberry season last Fall,
1 large handful of dandelion greens (about 70g)
3/4 cup purified water
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 cup frozen raspberries or other berries
2 dried pitted dates or half a small banana
SPRING DANDELION SALAD
My favourite dandelion salad shown above includes two good handfuls of dandelions greens chopped, green onion, radish, a small avocado, and a sprinkling of sunflower seeds. Season to taste with sea salt and olive oil. I well often add in a few eggs as well.
Other seasonal foods you might think to include in your Spring cleanse:
Leafy greens. In addition to dandelion greens, another favourite is parsley, which resurges in my garden this time of year if well protected over the winter months Nettles are another perennial favourite, but really any fresh leafy greens will do.
Sulfur-rich vegetables including onion, garlic, mushrooms and the cabbage family of veg. This time of year, my garden is quite abundant in perennial onions, radishes from the cold frame and the reawakening stalks of overwintered kale and collards. For kale and collards, cooked is best.
If I am lucky, the root cellar often still boasts some wonderful beets from last year’s harvest. Beets are a great support to liver detoxification and an excellent source of betaine.
Asparagus tonifies and supports kidney detoxification as it makes its debut in early May.
Lemon and lime, which if organic, I prefer to juice whole with skin intact. The skin boasts high levels of limonene which is a great support for liver detoxification.