Spring finally feels like it is here and in celebration I have started eating weeds again! The colour of Spring in Chinese Medicine is green, and the organs are the Liver and Gall Bladder. It always amazes me that such a simple system can be so very effective, but oddly enough, most of the edible plants that pop up in our hedgerows at this time are both very green and good for detoxing the Liver – what do you know…
In a way it makes sense – for our ancestors surviving winter would have required living on a diet that could be stored: mainly dried and preserved meats, nuts, berries and root vegetables. This means meals high in salt, fat and carbohydrates but seriously lacking in chlorophyll! No wonder the first leaves of spring were so alluring…
There are also compelling arguments for eating wild food today. In Chinese theory, we take on the quality of the things we consume along with their component parts. Unfortunately, this explains some less favourable aspects of Chinese herbalism, but when it comes to weeds, it means we take on their resilience and strength. Any gardener knows weeds seem to be made of sterner stuff the usual veg we try to grow!
Biochemically this hold true too. Unlike cultivated plants, weeds have to protect themselves from pest, predictors and disease. Consequently, they contain significantly higher levels of phytonutrients, vitamins, mineral, essential fatty acids and dietary fibre than commercial produced plants* – some even ague that they contain powerfully helpful chemicals that are not found at all in cultivated plants**.
My personal favourites at this time of year are nettles, and wild garlic, and they also have the advantage of being easy to identify. I like to simply steam my nettle tips for a few minutes, and enjoy with a knob of butter, but they are also good in a soup or even a bake – think of them as spinach… Wild garlic makes a good pesto, but can also be used in a stir-fry or run through a sauce.
There are many other plants you can eat around at the moment too, such as clever, navelwort, sorrel and hedge garlic but if you want to try these I strongly recommend going on a foraging walk. In our area you can accompany the multi talented, extremely knowledgeable and all round good egg, Dawn Ireland of the Hawthorn clinic. http://torbay-herbalist.co.uk/ She runs foraging walks through the spring and summer.
Of course one of the other great benefits of searching for your supper is that it is involved in a walk in the wilds, an activity that is invariably good for the soul. The element of Wood, associated with spring is also linked to vision, planning and hope – so get out there and welcome the Spring!
Sources and Recommended Reading
* The Thrifty Forager: Living off your local landscape – Alys Fowler
- Eating on the wild side: The missing link to optimum health – Jo Robinson
** The Hunter-Gatherer Way – Putting back the Apple – Ffyona Campbell