A Spring Tonic, using the early greens of spring, may be just the thing you need to get through this month!
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.
Let's face it—anything fresh and green no doubt tasted great after a wearisome winter of salt pork and dried beans.
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.
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.
More Cleansing Greens!
Another popular spring tonic was made by boiling together bunches of sweet fern, sarsaparilla, wintergreen and sassafras with water. After boiling until thickened, the concoction was drained and sweetened with sugar to taste. Sassafras tea is still popular today.
Rich in vitamins and trace minerals, these 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.
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 and needs to be processed properly.
If you make or drink spring tonics, please share your recipes, tips, tricks, and stories below!