Springs Early Arrivals

009 I love the rainy, mossy and sun-challenged Pacific Northwest.  There is even a part of me that revels in our wet, bleak winters.  But by March I’m pretty much over all that and am ready to see evidence of renewing life.  Spring is a time of rebirth, a time to rejoice in the visual signs of new emerging plants, the smells of warming earth, and taste of tender new and nutritious greens.

That new life is coming.  March 20th may be the official start of spring this year, but already plants are cautiously sticking their noses out.  Chives (Allium schoenoprasum), Oregano (Origanum vulgare), Monarda (Monarda spp.), Violet (Viola odorata), Lovage (Levisticum officinalis), Yarrow (Achillea filipendulina), and Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor) are all emerging right now.  Take a walk through the parks, woods, or other wild places around you and may also see the tender new shoots of nettles (Urtica dioica), chicory (Cichorium intybus), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), and chickweed (Stellaria media).

Now that you have cooed at the sights of emerging green, tickle another sense by adding some of this new foliage to your diet.  As soon as they are large enough, gather young dandelion, chickweed and purslane greens for a refreshing and highly nutritious salad.  Dandelion has almost twice as much vitamin A as spinach (14000 IU).  The bright notes of the greens, bitterness, and impressive nutrients make a great spring tonic in salad form.  Spring nettles are another traditional spring tonic and can be steamed or stirred into soups and stews for a boost of minerals at a time when our bodies need that rejuvenation.  Nettles are particularly rich in protein, iron, calcium and magnesium.  Use care collecting them to avoid being stung and be sure to cook them to deactivate the stingers on the plant.  Alternatively, infuse fresh dandelion leaves or decoct the roots for a warm tea to cuddle as you continue to scan your gardens for other signs of new life.

Last thoughts… remember dandelions are one of the first flowers to emerge in the spring and as such are an important food source for bees.  Also, only gather from areas you know have not been sprayed or contaminated.

References:

Bissas, Aspasia. (February/March 2004). Early Spring Herbs. Mother Earth Living. http://www.motherearthliving.com/Gardening/Early-Spring-Herbs?pageid=2#PageContent2

Cech, Richo. (2000). Making Plant Medicine. A Horizon Herbs Publication:Williams, OR.

Hoffmann, David. (2003). Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Healing Arts Press:Rochester VT.

Meares, Portia. (April/May 1993). Spring Tonics. http://www.motherearthliving.com/Health-and-Wellness/Spring-Tonics.

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