Eating for Spring

Spring is finally here! As the seasons change, so should our basic eating patterns. In Spring diet should primarily be focused on supporting normal Liver function, as the Liver relates to Wood from a Chinese medical perspective.  In Chinese medicine the Liver is responsible for normal coursing and moving of the qi and blood internally. Foods that have this Yang function of coursing the qi and blood, or creating movement in general, have an acrid, or mildly spicy flavor. Acrid culinary herbs include onions, scallions, garlic, cilantro, ginger, basil, dill, fennel, and bay leaf. Additionally, Spring is the time to eat plants that are young and thus have the quality of growth associated with Wood. These include young greens, sprouts, or sprouted grains. The specific grain of the Wood phase is wheat, which is also eaten in Spring provided the person eating it has no specific allergies or sensitivities. Seasonal foods that are harvested in Spring include chard, arugula, new potatoes, asparagus, and eggs.

In general Spring is the time to eat lighter foods than those consumed in the colder weather. It is also the time to eat less. People who are relatively healthy can practice a short 24-hour fast once a week to let the digestive system rest a bit. This type of intermittent fasting still allows for food each day; for example a 24-hour fast would be eating breakfast one day, then not eating any calories until breakfast the day following (i.e., not eating any calories for exactly 24 hours). During the fast day people should consume plenty of water or light tea to stay well hydrated.

Even the method of cooking food should be adjusted to the season. In Spring foods should be cooked quickly over high heat. This type of rapid cooking leaves food, especially vegetables, not completely cooked. An example of this type of cooking is sautéing with a small amount of cooking oil. Other appropriate methods of cooking vegetable include light steaming or blanching.

One basic tea that supports Liver is the combination of peppermint and lemon. For this tea steep either bags of dried peppermint tea or, if available, crush fresh peppermint leaves in boiling hot water. Add to this liquid several thin slices of fresh lemon including the peel. Some sweetener such as honey can be added to taste. This simple tea combines the acrid flavor of peppermint with the sour citrusy lemon, a basic combination that courses and soothes Liver qi. Practitioners of Chinese medicine can use this tea as a dietary substitute for the famous Liver coursing formula, Xiao Yao San (逍遙散), which also utilizes the combination of acrid and sour flavors.