Spring is the time of renewal and new growth. Seeds that were sown in the previous seasons are now sprouting, delicate, and seeking light and warmth.
With this in mind, we can see the liver systems, and the cells of our bodies are trying to regenerate new tissue and expel accumulation. Fasting for one day a month during the spring, or, at a minimum, skipping a meal a day here and there can be especially beneficial. Eat more sprouted foods during this season, such as sprouting your grains and beans before cooking. Vegetable, bean, and other fresh raw sprouts are some ideas. Some people may need to steam their sprouts for a few seconds before consuming them if they are thin, weak, have loose stools, are pale, and are often fatigued. (See the section following on suggested foods to eat during this season.)
On a more subtle level, this is the season to begin manifesting the dreams of winter. If clear intentions were not set for the year, we can “float” in the soup of universal roulette. We can practice this by setting daily intentions when we wake up, or by setting monthly intentions with the new moon. We are always creating, so if our mind and feelings are sending contrary and conflicting messages to the universe, we will see this mirrored in our lives. The wood element that dominates this season (according to TCM) has to do with the courage to move ahead with plans and dreams. When we do not do this because of lack of energy, lack of clarity, or lack of risk taking, then we may feel frustrated. Frustration can be seen as the blocked creative energy of water. This energy wants to move into form, and if we are “getting in the way,” then we suffer with difficulties and obstacles. Depression could follow.
Without modern transportation, this season involved the challenge of winter’s storage being used up, and not having as many of food choices, which meant fasting and light eating. The wisdom in this is to let the blood change for summer heat, and allow the liver system to clean up the congestion of winter. Good foods to eat a lot less of, or eliminate for a few weeks, would be eggs, cheeses, alcohol, hard fats (saturated), and meats.
If you have cold springs, then include the winter cooking methods also. As the weather warms, then go to lighter methods of cooking. The sour flavor can be used medicinally during this season. Sour causes contraction initially, then leaves an alkaline residue, which is helpful for livers that are overused and acidic. Sour also has attributes of fire in it, which can tonify, warm, and contain the fluids, especially in the liver. Adding a little more pungent or spicy foods can help with the expansion of the body and the change of the blood. Spicy foods have a significant relationship with fire. This can warm up our organs after a cold, contracted winter. As a general rule, use spicy foods to reduce excess water, flush out cold, stimulate the system, and to carry nutrients into the body. And keep in mind that sour, such as lemon juice, is more beneficial to an overactive liver than something spicy such as hot peppers. Use strong spices during this season only if your liver is in good shape.
Mildly contractive foods such as rice, umeboshi plums and vinegar, lemons, limes, tangerines, sour apples, sauerkraut, sourdough breads, and pickled and fermented foods can be used to slow the spring expansion in the body. Decrease your salt intake slightly. This will allow the tissues to let go of winter’s excess water. Grains and grain products to be emphasized (according to the Macrobiotic tradition) include oats, wheat berries, barley, wild rice, kamut, and other forms of wheat, noodles, and sprouted breads. Vegetables include all sprouts, broccoli, wild local vegetables such as lamb’s quarters, plantain, dandelions, miner’s lettuce, young milk thistle leaves, nettles, and your local “weeds” or wild greens sprouting up in clean places. Other cultivated vegetables that can be useful are celery, chives, all young leafy greens, green peas, leeks, fresh mushrooms, asparagus, artichokes, and scallions. Fruits include the many types of plums, loquats, strawberries, and all local tree fruits that are ripe in this season in your area. Other foods are tempeh, green lentils, flax and poppy seeds.
Foods to avoid include strong alcohol drinks, excess caffeinated beverages, fried and very oily foods, excess meat and flesh foods, and excess dairy products, especially hard cheeses. All these foods congest the liver and may slow down the cleansing process begun during this season.
Herbs that are young and vibrant can energize the body, such as fresh greens of sorrel, dandelion, nettles, and watercress for balance of the liver, and dandelion, gentian, and barberry for cleansing of the liver and bowels and strengthening of the digestion. The green color “goes” to the liver organ systems and can be used daily and often. Fresh wheat grass juice, liquid chlorophyll, and eating lots of leafy greens will help balance the liver and help one prepare for summer.
Spring Dietary Summary
Nerve calmers – oats, rice, all whole grains, parsnips, celery, chamomile, sweet rice, lemon balm
Liver helpers – bitter roots such as burdock, dandelion, radishes, artichoke leaf, milk thistle seeds (or young milk thistle greens cooked for a few minutes), wheat or barley grass juices, nettles, beets, aloe vera, mung beans, celery, seaweeds, vitamin C whole complex, clean the colon, eat lighter, eat before dark then stop. Use foods with moderate pungency (see expansive foods below).
Young plants – sprouts, small carrots, beets, radishes, new greens such as arugula, wheat/barley/oat grass juices 1-2 oz per day, parsley, small/young wild herbs and greens such as plantain
Green suggestions – chlorophyll cools the liver heat, provides magnesium, and is calming. Leafy greens (especially young tender ones) such as dandelion, arugula, kale, collards, parsley, radish greens, beet greens, romaine lettuce, watercress, asparagus,
Less salt – use sea vegetables, powdered kelp, umeboshi plum or its vinegar, miso
Bitter/sour polarity – bitter opens the liver and is detoxifying, and it increases bile production. Sour contracts the liver, acting as a solvent for fat and protein, releasing and squeezing out excess. Sour works for deficiency and cold, bitter for excess and heat.
Expansive foods/herbs – fennel, ginger, basil, oregano, caraway seeds, anise, bay leaf, radishes, turnip, taro potato, mints, marjoram, dill, horseradish, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, onions, scallions, rosemary, kuzu root starch
Contractive foods/herbs (to counterbalance excessive expansion during this season) – vinegars, citrus juices, cultured foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, pickles (radish, daikon, beets very nice), tempeh, brown rice, rye, barley
Cooking tips – upward and outwards energy to facilitate the growing energy this season
Steaming – very expansive and light
Soaking – to make seeds, grains, nuts, and beans more digestible
Raw – freshly picked produce will offer higher amounts of energy, and more inherent energy comes from raw foods.
Culturing – to help with microbial balance and eliminate certain compounds such as thyroid inhibitors in cabbage family vegetables
Pressing – a raw technique used to make vegetables more digestible by breaking down the cell walls and tenderizing the tough cellulose fibers