Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten
australiaphen375.com

Spring Clean Your Body With Seasonal Eating

Spring is the most magical of seasons. A time when nature is at its most prolific. A time for renewal, regrowth and restoration. A time of fertility, strength and vigour. As the dark dreary days of winter slip away and the promise of Spring burgeons, this is the opportunity to get rid of the stodgy, heavy foods of winter and replace them with the new life-giving foods of Spring.

Sadly, the stresses and strains of 24/7 living in the 21st century push out our natural affinity for nature. Apart from changing our clothes to suit the climate, it's hard to know whether it's spring, summer, autumn or winter when you're working 16 hours a day, shopping in the supermarket in the middle of the night, and Sunday is very little different from Thursday in your hectic, busy life. Mentally and physically being in tune with the seasons can make all the difference to your day to day health, and making simple changes to the way you eat is much easier than you think.

There's no doubt at all that eating foods which are seasonal and produced as close to where you live as possible, is better for you as they will contain the highest levels of essential nutrients, better for the environment as you're saving 'food miles', fuel and atmospheric pollution, and better for the economy as you'll be supporting local farming and horticulture. As a Naturopath I've followed the traditional principles of my profession and encouraged my patients to eat in this way as much as is practically possible.

If you live in the centre of a town there are certain to be farmer's markets, farm shops or pick-your-own farms within easy distance, and it's really worth supporting your own local street market where fresh produce costs less, hasn't come out of a cold store and isn't packed in identical shaped plastic containers. Spring time produces the freshest, youngest produce with delicate flavours, and huge amounts of nourishing vitamins and minerals. Whether it's the tender, succulent spring lamb or the earliest pale asparagus, eating seasonal spring food will put vitality back into your life.

Asparagus

The earliest asparagus is a real treat and an indulgence which you deserve at this time of year. It helps with fluid retention, cystitis and arthritis. It's rich in beta carotenes and great for women around period time to help get rid of painful breasts and puffy fingers.

Recipe: Spring Spears
Asparagus has been used as a medicine for around 3,000 years and known to have been cultivated as a food plant in Egypt since 4,000 BC.
Asparagus - 24 spears steamed and left to cool
Eggs - 2, hard boiled, cool and chopped
Parsley – a handful coarsely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Arrange asparagus on 4 plates. Sprinkle tips with chopped egg and parsley. Drizzle on a little oil and finish with a good twist of black pepper.

French Beans

These delicate, slim, round pods start to appear from the end of April to the beginning of May and make the perfect restorative dishes after a bleak winter. Rich in potassium, with lots of vitamin A, C, folic acid and some B vitamins, these beans are great for your skin and good for the heart.

Recipe: Hearty Bean Salad
500 g / 1 lb French beans, topped and tailed
6 spring onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
lemon juice
Cook the beans in boiling water till just tender, strain and plunge into ice cold water to refresh. Drain and dry and put them into a bowl with the chopped onion and garlic. Add a generous drizzle of oil and lemon juice. Toss well. This spring salad is filling, delicious and healthy.

Cabbage

Throughout Europe cabbage is known as the medicine of the poor. It contains special substances which are soothing to the stomach and help cleanse the digestive system after a winter of stodgy and high fat foods. It's very rich in vitamin C to give your spring resistance a boost, and help absorb iron from other foods to revive your tired blood. Cabbage is one of the richest food sources of cancer-protecting plant chemicals.

We've been eating cabbages for 4000 years and from April onwards the wonderful spring greens are at their best. As well as using as a vegetable, shred and add to stir fries, soups, stews and casseroles for all the healing benefits.

Recipe: Spring Clean Stir Fry
A quick and easy way to make a delightfully different cabbage dish.
250 g / 8 oz spring greens, coarsely chopped and par boiled
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
2 spring onions, thinly sliced lengthways, including green bits
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
half an inch of grated ginger root

Drain the cabbage. Heat the oil in a wok or deep frying pan. Add the cabbage, cook for 2 minutes, add all the other ingredients and cook for another 2 minutes.

Courgettes, Peas And Potatoes

The tiniest early courgettes will soon be in the shops. Whatever you do don't peel them, as all the vitamin A and fibre is in the skin.

The sweetest new potatoes are around now too, full of energy and rich in vitamin C, and when combined with the vitamin-rich mange tout and natural plant hormones in the runner beans, make this a real souper-soup for spring vitality. Very low in calories and simply oozing with immune-boosting, protective and restorative nutrients, a bowl of this with a chunk of crusty wholemeal bread make a fabulous meal.

Recipe: Cleansing Spring Vegetable Soup
Olive oil 50ml
Onions 1, large, very finely chopped
Garlic 2 cloves, peeled and finely sliced
Courgettes 2 trimmed and grated
Potatoes 4, new, scrubbed and diced
Carrots 1, large, peeled and grated
Mange tout, 100 g / 3 oz, cut in chunks
Runner beans 100 g / 3 oz, cut in chunks
Fennel, 1 dsp chopped fronds
Thyme, 1 tsp fresh leaves
Bay leaves, 2
Water 1.5 litres

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic, cook gently till soft, add all the other vegetables. Stir for a couple of minutes till coated with oil. Add water and herbs, bring to the boil and leave to simmer for 1 hour.

Rhubarb

One of the real treats of spring and a sign that winter is finally over is the early forced rhubarb. Mine is already growing vigorously inside its protective pot and my mouth's already watering at the thought of my first rhubarb crumble.

One of the most cleansing of fruits, and a very gentle laxative, this delicious crumble will clear away the debris of the winter and fortify your system with protein, vitamin E and lots of healthy essential oils from the almonds.

Recipe: Rhubarb And Almond Crumble
500 g/1lb rhubarb
2tsp sugar
2tbsp water
150g/6oz porridge oats
50g/2oz ground almonds
1tbsp runny honey
1tbsp flaked almonds
25g/1oz butter, cut into tiny pieces

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6. Lightly grease a pie dish. Put in the fruit - washed, and cut into bite size pieces. Add the sugar and the water. Mix the oats and ground almonds together and spread over the top of the fruit - there should be enough to make an inch thick coating. Drizzle the honey over the top. Scatter over the flaked almonds. Dot with the butter and put in the oven for 20 minutes.

Spring Herbs

The earliest herbs of spring have been used for centuries to restore winter fatigued bodies and minds. The bright green shoots of chervil rich in blood strengthening iron; the burgeoning fronds of fennel to help digestion; over-wintered sage and thyme to improve fat digestion and full of mood enhancing essential oils; tender shoots of young chives with their cholesterol-lowering chemicals and delicate flavour; and the first sprigs of mint to ease your digestive system back into full swing.

If you've got a garden, a balcony or even a doorstep, grow your own as nothing has better medicinal properties or fuller flavour than fresh snipped herbs put straight in to your salad, omelette, casserole or soup.

 

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