Spring Tonics

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Spring Tonic Tea

A Spring Tonic, using the early greens of spring, may be just the thing you need to get through this month!

What is a Spring Tonic?

While the vernal equinox may mark the moment of spring, the appearance of the first greens makes it real. The early settlers were firm believers in the tonic effects of eating spring greens: they were said to stimulate the digestion, purify the blood, cure scurvy and ague, combat rheumatism, and repel kidney stones after a long cold winter of inactvity.

Rich in vitamins and trace minerals, these cleansing greens and roots were prepared and drunk in early spring, providing much-needed nourishment and energy after a nutrient-poor winter. Tonics also stimulated the appetite, the circulation, and bodily functions as settlers got ready for physical farm labor.

Let’s face it—anything fresh and green no doubt tasted great after a wearisome winter of salt pork and dried beans.

Dandelions Tonic

Dandelions were so valued that they were cultivated in gardens.

Try using the tender young leaves in salads, either fresh or blanched, as the French and Dutch settlers favored. Or, use the leaves as one would spinach or make them into soup. (Those who boiled dandelion greens in water often made a point of drinking the “pot likker” or cooking water, which was, in fact, loaded with water-soluble vitamins.)

Did you know? Dandelions can also be used as a relaxing body rub. See our Natural Remedies for Stress and Anxiety.

One warning. Make sure that the dandelions have not been treated with chemicals before you pick them. Our lawn is safe as we try not to use any pesticides or fertilizers on it.

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Rhubarb Tonic

Rhubarb, or pieplant, was widely regarded as a fine spring tonic to aid the blood and the digestive system. Cooked and stewed rhubarb was called “spring fruit” in early cookbooks.

Note: Only eat rhubarb stalks. Do not eat the leaves, as they contain high levels of oxalic acid, which is toxic in high doses.

Boil rhubarb and enjoy it as a soup (with some sweetener). Rhubarb is also delicious in preserves, puddings, and pies.

(See rhubarb recipes here.)
(See rhubarb planting guide here.)

Sassafras Tea

Early spring means it’s time to make Sassafras Tea! Old-times made this popular spring tonic by boiling together bunches of sweet fern, sarsaparilla, wintergreen and sassafras with water.

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Image: Sassafras leaves

Or, you can just boil sassafras root.

Sassafras saplings were a pioneer tree, and still common, especially on field edges. Note: As with all wild plants, be sure to get help if you need tree identification, such as the Audubon Society Field Guide.

Sassafras roots are dug up, dried for a few days, and chopped into two-inch pieces. (You need about a foot of root for a half-gallon of tea.)  Leaves are dried, too. After boiling the concoction and simmering for 15 minutes, it’s drained and sweetened with sugar to taste. Sassafras tea is still popular today.

Note: If you find these plants in the wild, make sure that you are allowed to legally dig the roots. If you make these tonics for ingestion, consult with a health professional so that you are making them safely. For example, sassafras can be toxic in large amounts, so don’t drink enormous amounts year-round!

If you make or drink spring tonics, or have any questions, please share below!

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The Polk and it berries can

The Polk and it berries can be used to worm fowl.
To eat Polk weed they must/have to be rinsed well in boiling water 3 times before consuming, they are slightly poisonous.

Ramps are from the lily

Ramps are from the lily family (so no seed), and only grow under specific conditions. Over harvesting is a problem as well. One can easily make a substitute by combining garlic and onion then adding to your fried potatoes, soups or whatever.

I found a website called

I found a website called mountainroseherbs.com that gives more information about all their herbs and their site says sassafras is not to be taken carelessly as too much tea might be toxic on a long term basis. "All things in moderation!"

What is poke and what are

What is poke and what are ramps? Also where does one find seeds for these as well as sweet fern, sarsaparilla, wintergreen and sassafras? As a child I had heard of sarsasparilla and sassafras tea. I would love to plant some and try it, or just buy the ingredients. I find that the old recipes had good health benefits that have long been forgotten.

To buy seeds, I came across

To buy seeds, I came across this site:
http://www.wildpantry.com/seed...
I also came across sassafras roots for purchase: http://stores.ebay.com/Sassafr...
I can't vouch for these sites, but I hope you find it helpful!
I think a lot of people go find these roots in the wild.

Thanks, I'll check them out.

Thanks, I'll check them out.

Don't know about poke, but

Don't know about poke, but Ramps are a wild onion-garlic which grows readily on the slopes of some hills in Western Pennsylvania, and the mountains of West Virginia. It's very strong and tasty. The old timers would make butter-bread and ramp sandwiches. The only problem is, that it's "bouquet" remains with you for days. But, BOY are they good.

In the mountains of Georgia,

In the mountains of Georgia, we like poke salad and ramps for a spring tonic. We also eat the dandelions.

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