by Betzy Bancroft, Co-Director and Faculty of the VCIH


If we go deep into our past, we find that until we had refrigeration and widespread distribution of food, people ate more dried food and carbohydrates such as grains and legumes in the winter. In the modern world, we can — affordability permitting — eat fresh produce whenever we want to, but we tend to be more sedentary and consume more carbohydrates and heavier foods in the winter. Excess carbohydrates in the diet — when we consume more than we can burn for energy — convert to fat in the liver and are stored in our abdominal adipose tissues. Our triglyceride levels rise. In many temperate areas, people traditionally ate young green plants that grew throughout the springtime to restore balance and vigor. Nettles, dandelion greens, mustards, wild leeks, and poke shoots are some of the best-known spring tonics. They stimulate the kidneys and liver, as well as help the lymphatic system to cleanse the interstitial fluids. In the old herbals, plants that stimulated these organs of detoxification were called “blood purifiers.” Greens are also rich in vitamins A and C as well as minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.


In the garden, some of the earliest spring greens include orach, sorrel, mustards, broccoli rabe, spinach, asparagus, bunching onions, and cilantro. These greens are often perennial, selfseeding, or can be sown in the fall for spring picking. Early wild greens include dandelion, violets, wild leeks, chickweed, nettles, and wild mustards like winter cress, watercress, and garlic mustard. Some other common vegetables that have rejuvenating properties include parsley, radish, carrots, beets, collards, kale, cabbage, radicchio, and celery.


One of the most traditional ways of preparing spring tonics has been as soup, or “potage.” A variety of chopped greens is added to vegetable or chicken stock and cooked just until tender. Aromatic allium-family veggies like garlic, shallot, leek, onion, and their wild cousins are often included, and some cooks like to poach an egg in the soup. These greens can also be simply steamed and served with lemon and olive oil, both of which also support liver function. Make pesto, juice them, and add them to salad — any way you like them!


Spring Tonics Available at The Coop 

Rejuvenation Tea from Zack Woods – Loose leaf tea that contains nourishing nettles, raspberry leaf, milky oats, and lemon balm. Local and organic. 4-oz bag $9.29


Flor-Essence from Flora – Purification tea that is a gentle detox for the whole body. Hunger Mountain Coop carries both the tea bag and liquid options. Non-GMO verified, and 90% organic ingredients. Dry tea blend 2.2 oz $39.39, 17 fluid oz $36.79


Wheatgrass from Navitas – Wheatgrass has been used to generate healthy energy as well as to cleanse the body of toxins. Freeze-dried powder. Organic, and Non-GMO verified. 1 oz $22.29


Digestive Bitters from Urban Moonshine – Handcrafted digestive tonic, including dandelion root and leaf, fennel seed, yellow dock root, and ginger root. Local, organic, and gluten-free. 8.4 fluid oz $41.99


Raw Reserve from Amazing Grass – A powdered blend of spirulina, chlorella, and sea vegetables from Maine. Great addition to smoothies. Organic, Non-GMO, gluten-free, and vegan. 8.5 oz $34.29