Many traditional cuisines espouse the wisdom of eating seasonally. This style of dining is my preference. On a winter’s day, hardy stews and soups simmer in my crock pot. With long dark nights, their savoury scent fills the house, and promises warmth for my body and spirit.
As the light returns, and the sun’s warmth begins to melt the snow, I crave salads. In particular, flower petal salad. Yet before adding flowers, I always begin with mineral-rich greens.
Romaine lettuce is the most nutritious lettuce. It is pack with vitamins K, A and C, and is high in the mineral chromium. Chromium is an important mineral for balancing blood sugars.
Many diabetics have low chromium levels.
Herbalists consider romaine lettuce a bitter herb. The mildly bitter taste of romaine lettuce triggers the release digestive juices from the stomach, liver and pancreas, preparing the body to break down and absorb fats and proteins.
Munching on a bowl of romaine lettuce will prepare the gut for the barbecue smokies that have been known to cause heartburn and other gastric upset.
Next, I add a few dandelion leaves to enhance the salad’s medicinal effect.
I always choose light green tender leaves from an undisturbed area of the garden. Young dandelion leaves have a delicate flavour, unlike the dark green dusty dandelion leaves that grow along the edge of the driveway.
Like romaine lettuce, dandelion leaves are high in minerals.
They also remove toxins from the body via both the liver and the kidney.
It is always easy to find chickweed in the garden and this tender plant is a must in any summer salad.
Chickweed refreshes the body on a hot summer’s afternoon and is a traditional remedy for heat stroke. Also high in minerals and chorolphyll, chickweed will build strong bones and make skin soft and supple.
In herbal first aid, a mashed up a handful of fresh chickweed smeared over burns, bites and scrapes eases the pain, and speeds up the healing.
To make the salad a feast for the eyes as well as the belly, toss in some flowers from the garden.
Rose petals are a traditional anti-depressant. It is hard to be depressed with rose petals in the salad.
Nasturtiums add a peppery taste and have anti-bacterial properties. Calendula flowers are rather bland to taste but they are high in beta-carotene and flavonoids.
These phytochemicals protect skin from the harmful effects of summer sun. Calendula flowers are sun worshippers and use flavonoids to protect themselves from the sun’s radiation.
Cheerful California poppy quiets nerves and makes for a very relaxing meal. For the broken hearts that follow spring fever, toss in a few johnny jump ups.
The sweet happy faces of these colourful flowers are a traditional Celt remedy for wounds to the heart. The Celts attributed johnny-jump-up’s heart healing abilities to the heart shaped petals.
If summer’s weddings, family reunions and company barbecues are a little overwhelming, seek out some sky blue borage flowers to add to the salad. French herbalists say, “Borage for courage.”
The word courage is derived from the French word coeur translated as heart. At times, summer requires a courageous heart.
Because so much of the salads medicine is in its taste, avoid drenching it in a sweet processed salad dressing.
Try this homemade one:
1/3 cup olive oil with a pinch of salt and shake
3 tbls of balsamic vinegar
1 lrg clove of crushed garlic
Shake the salad dressing well.
This simple salad dressing has several medicinal qualities. Olive oil is high in essential fatty acids. These nourish every cell of your body and make skin soft.
Vinegar draws minerals from the lettuce and other greens enhancing the body’s ability to absorb them. Garlic is a wonder herb.
It reduces cholesterol and high blood pressure, balances gut flora and helps fight off spring colds. Best of all, it taste good.
And if taking a pass on the smokies, to toss some chicken, salmon or nuts in the salad. Once the protein is added, the salad becomes a complete meal. Light, crispy and delicious — no wonder I am craving salads.
Herbs for Life is written by Abrah Arneson, a local clinical herbalist. It is intended for information purposes only. Readers with a specific medical problem should consult a doctor. For more information, visit www.abraherbalist.ca. Arneson can be reached www.abraherbs.com.