Did you notice the first signs of springs where you live?
If you are looking to connect to nature and its cycles, there is no better way than spending time outdoors, observing the changes in animal and plant patterns as they shift from season to season.
I believe in seasonal eating and the idea that nature gives us what our body craves the most in each season if we only make the time and listen.
Here is what to look for when you are venturing outdoors to get the ingredients for your wild salad:
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinal) is one of the first plants to pop when the Earth thaws. Dandelion was used for centuries for food and medicine.
All parts of the plant are edible: the leaves, blossoms, and roots. I prefer to harvest the fresh leaves at the beginning of spring and the root in the fall.
Dandelion leaves are bitter. Energetically, dandelions are cooling and drying. They are known to support digestive enzymes, bile secretion, and the detox process in the liver.
Add dandelion leaves to your salad daily to improve digestive function and to help release the build-up of toxins that you might have accumulated during the cold months of winter.
Wild violet (Viola sororia or Viola odorata) is one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring in abundance everywhere.
Energetically violet flowers are cooling and moistening. First and foremost, violets are nourishing. Violet is rich in minerals and especially abundant in vitamins A & C. They’re a perfect alternative or addition to those who try nettles and find its diuretic effect too drying.
Violets are mucilants that become apparent when you chew on them. They release the cooling soothing mucilage beneficial for the mucus membrane throughout the body but specifically in the digestive tract.
Violet works on the lymph node too. If your lymph is congested, swollen, and hard or painful to touch, a violet infusion can help resolve the congestion. Governed by the planet and the goddess Venus, which rule the throat, violets were often used to treat its ailments. They do contain a soothing mucilage that is excellent for the purpose.
Violets are a beautiful addition to your salad and can be infused in water for tea or vinegar to create a spring tonic.
Cleavers (Galium aparine) is considered a pesky garden weed that is sticky and will cling to your cloth, but cleaver is a nourishing herb with an affinity to the lymph, kidneys, and bladder.
Cleavers is a salty herb with a cooling and drying energy used for damp stagnation conditions to move and drain stagnation in the lymph. That makes cleavers very appropriate for the spring. Because, let’s face it, in the winter, we love to bundle under a warm blanket with a book and avoid movement as much as possible. Lymph flow is stimulated by movement. After the long winter, the lymph tends to be congested. Here come cleavers to the rescue.
“It is a good remedy in the Spring, eaten (being first chopped small, and boiled well) in water-gruel, to cleanse the blood, and strengthen the liver, thereby to keep the body in health, and fitting it for that change of season that is coming.”
~ Nicholas Culpepper 1652
You can blend cleavers into pesto or in your smoothie, add it to your soup or infuse it in vinegar.
Chickweed (Stellaria media) is considered to be a weed. Chickweed likes to grow on fertile soil, and in my garden, chickweed grows around the compost pile.
A nutritious wild green chickweed offers calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium, and zinc.
Chickweed is a hardy plant that can withstand cold weather. It can even survive the winter and is one of the first plants to pop its head as the days get longer. The leaves of chickweed are most tender in the spring. As the plant begins to flower, it gets less tender, though it is still edible.
Energetically, chickweed is cooling and moistening and is used as an anti-inflammatory and demulcent vulnerary (wound healing). It excels at calming itchy skin (applied externally or internally) and is commonly used in eczema, psoriasis, hives, rashes, wounds, bites, dandruff, dry skin, and mucous membrane inflammation.
The best application of chickweed for skin irritation is a fresh poultice. To supply chickweed on hand during the winter months or when fresh chickweed cannot be accessed, the fresh plant can be frozen as a succus (plant juice) and stored as ice cubesInternally, chickweed can be taken as a tea or plainly added to your salad.
You can have chickweed fresh in your salad, sandwich, or blend chickweed pesto in your smoothie or juice.
Welcoming spring by using weeds that grow in your backyard can become a rewarding adventure. It ties your body to the shifting seasons and provides it with the exact nourishment it will need.