Friday, February 17, 2012

FOOD AS MEDICINE

A hillside of ramps


Just one moon until Spring Equinox and the earth is awakening here in West Virginia. Our native wild onions are ramping up for sun on southern slopes. Chickweed is whirling out from rich garden beds. Even the yard is greening with dandelions sensing the return of light and warmth. It's time for a spring tonic and there's no better delivery system for herbal medicines than the oldest one - food.






Dandelion for blood cleansing


Young dandelion greens (Taraxacum officinale, see Identifying Medicinal Plants) provide a salty and bitter addition to a spring salad, stimulating urination while sparing potassium.









Chickweed for digestion


Chickweed buds (Stellaria media) offer a nutty and slightly sweet taste to balance the bitterness of spring greens. They also promote digestion and metabolism to prepare for increased activity with the coming of spring.







Ramps for blood flow




Topping off a spring salad with chopped scallions stimulates circulation to rewarm the hands and heart. Any Allium will do including chives, garlic, and wild onions sprouting in the yard. Here in southern Appalachia we like ramps (Allium tricoccum) but be forewarned - everyone in the house had better like them too.










HERBALIST'S NOTE: These three plants are classified as alteratives for their respective body systems - dandelion for liver and kidney, chickweed for digestion, and onion for heart and circulation (See Alteratives in Herbal Formulas)





WILTED SPRING GREENS SALAD (serves 5)


bacon (local uncured if available) - 10 slices
baby spinach (fresh) - enough to half fill a large salad bowl
dandelion greens - 2 handfuls
ramps - 4 thinly sliced (8 if scallions)
chickweed buds including leaves - 2 handfuls (substitute watercress)
red wine vinegar - 6 tablespoons
lemon juice - from one lemon
sugar (optional but better) - 1 tablespoon
black pepper - 8-10 grinds (1 teaspoon)
salt (optional) - 2-4 grinds (1/4 teaspoon)
avocado cubes (optional) - from 1 avocado


1) Place spinach in a large salad bowl and top with dandelion greens and ramps;
2) Cook bacon in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, then remove and crumble it;
3) Reduce heat to medium and quickly stir in vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, and black pepper until hot;
4) Immediately pour this hot mixture over the greens and lightly toss to coat the spinach;
5) Sprinkle on the crumbled bacon (and optional avocado), adding a few grinds of sea salt if using uncured bacon;
6) Serve with a fresh loaf or two of gluten-free bread.

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