The weather is officially warmer here on the East Coast, and New York city is abuzz with springtime excitement: al fresco dining, long walks in the park, and apartment windows flung wide open to welcome in the sunshine.
Winter is nothing more than a memory. Or is it?
After months of winter hibernation, you may be experiencing dry and scaly skin, sluggish digestion, or decreased energy.
Help is on the way! Nature is quite a spectacular thing, providing us with exactly the tools we need at the exact time we need them.
Spring is the season for detoxification. After a long winter, our detoxification channels are most likely clogged, like a busy expressway during rush hour. It's our job, our duty, to support that system, either through a formal detoxification program or by increasing specific foods that can help clear the channels.
Here are my top three spring vegetables that naturally support your body's system of detoxification, plus a yummy recipe to go along with each one.
For centuries, artichokes have been used medicinally as a powerful liver tonic. They have a strong effect on the production of bile and fat-digesting enzymes, which stimulates liver function. Artichokes elicit a digestive response and are often a food I recommend to my clients suffering from IBS, or general digestive discomfort.
Globe artichokes have the ability to protect the liver against the harmful effects of substances like alcohol, making them the perfect food to serve at a spring party.
In addition to liver support, artichokes also have the uncanny ability to trick your sugar-craving brain. They contain a chemical called cynarin, which changes your perception of sweet. Foods and drinks you consume after you eat an artichoke will be perceived as sweeter than they actually are. Try drinking a glass of water after you eat an artichoke and see if the water tastes sweeter than normal. This property of an artichoke may be a beneficial tool to help curb sugar cravings, balance blood glucose levels and reduce the amount of sugar you eat. Perfect for a gentle spring detox.
As pure and perfect as a steamed artichoke is, bump up the volume a little with my pan-roasted curried artichokes with mint and pistachio.
2. Fiddlehead ferns
I am certain that fiddlehead ferns are the food of fairies. A vibrant green mini french horn, magical and quirky, they're a fleeting fancy in spring, with a very short season of two to three weeks. If you see them in the market, scoop them up!
Fiddleheads are an excellent source of vitamins A and C and are rich in niacin, magnesium, iron, potassium and phosphorus. They are also rich in antioxidants and bioflavonoids, which are plant chemicals that help protect against disease.
It's said that the North American indigenous people were the first to use fiddleheads in a medicinal manner. They were a prized medicinal plant, said to act as a cleansing agent to rid the body of accumulated impurities and toxins.
I find the flavor to be a cross between artichokes, asparagus and, due to their slightly gelatinous nature, okra.
I prepare fiddleheads very simply by boiling for a few minutes then sautéing in olive oil and grass-fed butter, finishing with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt.
3. Dandelion greens
Dandelion, while typically considered a pesky weed, has been used medicinally by traditional healers for centuries. This weed, when consumed regularly, could help encourage weight loss, detoxify your liver, cleanse your blood, improve gastrointestinal health, and promote clearer skin.
In the spring, when they're fresh and abundant, be sure to pick up a bunch or two.
The flavor of dandelion greens is quite bitter. If you can tolerate the bitter they're great added to green smoothies or juices. If the bitter is too much for you, try a starter recipe like my “creamed” dandelion greens with goat cheese and nectarines.