Eating with the Seasons in the Northwest: Winter into Spring
by Judi Epstein, MNS, ARNP
Eating in harmony with the seasons connects us with the earth in a sustainable and conscious way. Spring is the season when Mother Nature awakens from her long winter slumber. Here in the Northwest, we often see this happening earlier than in other parts of the country. We hear the singing of the birds and the croaking of the frogs as green shoots are starting to emerge from the earth and trees and bushes are budding.
It is getting light out earlier. Many people find that they need a little less sleep and are waking earlier and with more energy. Spring is a time to lighten up your diet, slowly transitioning from heavier winter foods to meals with more fresh, seasonal raw foods.
Greens and Herbs
Spinach, kale, turnip greens, nettles, chard, beet greens, dandelion, mustard greens, cabbage, mint, parsley, chives and watercress are abundant in early spring. They contain a wealth of minerals, antioxidants and are chock full of vitamin C, calcium, iron, folic acid, high in fiber and chlorophyll. A powerful healer, chlorophyll has been known to help with detoxification and to promote healthy intestinal flora.
Sprouts are a power pack of nutrients and an easily digestible way to incorporate grains and legumes into your diet. You may consider trying alfalfa, mung beans, adzuki beans, lentils, chick peas, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, millet or pumpkin seeds, to name a few.
Garlic is a popular and pungent little bulb that possesses amazing qualities. It has decongestant and antimicrobial properties, works as blood purifier, and has been known to have cancer-fighting attributes.
Burdock is another lovely root that also has medicinal properties and is known to be a blood purifier. It can be added to soups, stews and stir-fry meals.
Carrots contain a multitude of health-boosting properties and come in a wide variety of beautiful colors and flavors. They are high in vitamin A, biotin, vitamin k, potassium, vitamin C, copper, folate, thiamine, magnesium, molybdenum, manganese, niacin, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, vitamin E, phosphorus, and beta carotene (one of the phytonutrient antioxidants). Numerous research studies have shown that carrots offer support to cardiovascular health, eye health and have documented anti-cancer properties. They are wonderful in soups, stews and roasted. If juicing with carrots, be mindful that they are higher in carbohydrates and natural sugars and the juice should be consumed in moderation.
Beets are another powerhouse of nutrition in both their greens as well as their roots. They are packed with lots of fiber and valuable phytonutrients including folate, vitamin B6, vitamin C, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper and rich in antioxidant beta carotene. They have also been shown to provide anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and detoxification support. They are a lovely addition to soups and stews and can also be roasted and steamed.
The selection of local fruit may by quite limited in spring, but here in the Northwest local apples may still be available. Avoid eating tropical fruit and try to stay with locally-grown fruit varieties, limiting yourself to one to two pieces daily to avoid imbalance.
Just as Mother Nature is waking up over the next few months, spring can be your time to clear out the old to make room for new endeavors and creativity. As well as tapping into your creative instincts this season, I encourage you to learn more about where your food comes from by getting to know your local farmers and tuning in to the local harvests.