This is another case where our grandmothers really knew what they were talking about! Only a decade or two ago the foods available to us during the Winter were much different. Strawberries in Winter?? Unthinkable! For generation upon generation humans ate local foods available according to the seasons. In Summer we ate the widest variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. In Autumn, we ate the late-ripening foods - apples, pumpkins, squash, potatoes. In Winter, we ate foods that we had dried or preserved in some way - grains, nuts and lots of root vegetables. And in Spring, we were looking for the first tiny green shoots of the wild edible plants. This is the pattern that we are genetically programmed for.
As it turns out, those first green shoots are often highly nutritious, and stimulating to our digestive systems and our livers, which cleanse our blood and purify our systems of toxins. Foods to get us moving again after the long Winter!
Dandelion leaves are sweet and tender now, delicious lightly steamed or in a salad. Dandelion leaves are a digestive bitter, which means that they will stimulate your digestive system and support it in its work. Dandelion is also a blood and lymph purifier. High in protein, Vitamins C, B & A, calcium, iron, potassium, and other minerals.
Chickweed is another of the greens that can be included in salads, or used as a garnish or added to your morning smoothie. It’s really too tender to cook for more than a couple of minutes, so maybe you could toss some into your soup or stir-fry just before serving. High in Vitamin C, it was long important in avoiding scurvy, because it grows all year except during the coldest part of the Winter, and is therefore one of the first plants to begin growing in Spring. Also high in trace minerals, this little plant is deeply nourishing to the glandular and lymph systems, especially the thyroid. It is soothing to the lungs, digestive and urinary system. Chickweed helps the body to absorb nutrients from other foods. Chickweed is often suggested in weight-loss diets, paired with Cleavers. It’s the saponins in chickweed that dissolve fat!
Nettle greens are possibly the most nutritious plant food on our planet! You’ll have to wear gloves when collecting the tender young tops, and avoid touching them at all until they are cooked to avoid being stung, but they are delicious steamed, or in an omelet or soup. Nettles are rich in Vitamins C and A, Calcium, Magnesium, all sorts of trace minerals, and chlorophyll. Nourishing and healing to the adrenals, kidneys, lungs and intestines.
Violet leaves and flowers support and heal the nervous system, lungs, immune system, and the reproductive system, with a special affinity for the breasts. And, fresh, they are a beautiful addition to your salads! Violets are nourishing to the digestive and urinary systems, the liver and gall bladder. They are used around the world in cancer treatment because of their high salicylic acid content.
Many of our grandparents ate the tiny leaves of the Poke plant, though you should really know what you are doing before adding Poke to your diet, as the roots and berries can be quite poisonous. Read about it in the classic Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Ewell Gibbons, or Wild Foods for Every Table, compiled by my friend Tina Sams.