Shaking off the sluggishness of winter and the heavy foods that kept us warm requires some remedies to jumpstart the system and help adjust to the coming heat of summer.
I recently hosted a seminar with herbalist and friend Claudia Keel, who demonstrated some warm weather techniques and recipes. She urged us to explore bitter greens, which are full of vitamins and can cool the liver and gallbladder and clear up any stagnation in the digestive system. Keel pointed out that it’s important to actually ‘taste’ the bitterness, rather than taking a pill or supplement.
Bitter, leafy vegetables in abundance right now include beet, radish, dandelion, mustard and turnip greens. With the popularity of artisanal farming, the bitter greens have made a comeback and should be available in many grocery stores and farmer’s markets. Making a salad is a wonderful way to eat them, and can help stimulate the digestive juices. You can surprise your palate by mixing them with other lettuces such as chickweed, lambs quarters, or even romaine, endive and radicchio.
Nettle is another green valued in much of the world because it is chlorophyll-rich and helps to build blood. It can be cooked down in a soup, sautéed, or even dried and made into a tea. (I served it as a substitute for spinach and my adult children did not know the difference until I told them.) Nettle can also be used to provide relief from allergies—Dr. Andrew Weil advises taking nettle in capsule form a few weeks before hay fever season and continuing throughout. I suffer from severe allergies so I was eager to try Keel’s recommendation of drinking nettle tea from the dried, loose leaves. This spring I had very few of the usual symptoms, and those I did experience were mild and subsided after a few sips of the tea.
Nettle image via Shutterstock