Bon Appetit - Just Plain Good Food
Eating Spring Foods and in Season for Health
by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
Cultures throughout the ages have celebrated the return of spring after a long, harsh winter by eating the first new greens they can find. Native Americans took advantage of fresh, wild plants to supplement their winter diets of dried foods; foraging in woodlands or near streams could bring in an entire meal in some cases.
Mushrooms often sprouted with the renewed moisture of spring; experts had to hunt for this very nutritious, but dangerous food. Women hunted dandelions, wild onions and leeks, ramps, chickweed, poke, and wild mustard (or a related plant called “creasy greens”) as soon as possible since many of these plants get more bitter as they grow older. Even young, tender leaves and shoots can be bitter, but these wild plants are very nutritious and have long been considered a tonic to wake up the liver and kidneys after a long winter diet of dried starches (like beans and pumpkin) and meat.
Traditional (Algonquin) Green Salad: One-part wild onions or leeks, chopped, and one and a half parts dandelion leaves, to four parts watercress. Add a small amount of sheep or wood sorrel, and then flavor to taste. Add a bit of maple syrup for sweetness, or use other traditional flavorings like salt, along with enough oil to coat the leaves.
Spring Food locally available
Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Broccoli, Cabbages, Curly Kale, Rhubarb, Leeks, Spring Greens, rabbit, lamb, Wild Salmon, steelhead, Crab, Oysters, Cauliflower, Celeriac, Chicory, Cockles, Cod, Hake, Parsley, Mint, Spring Onions. Lettuces, Radishes, Spring Greens, Sea Kale, Watercress, Morel Mushrooms, Wild Garlic, Sorrel, Rhubarb, New Potatoes, Halibut, Sea Bass, Lemon Sole, Spinach.
All and many more of the foods listed here are available in our local farmers markets. Eating seasonally provides us with a opportunity to rebalance our immune systems, restore vital nutrients, control blood sugars and weight, reduce heart disease and cancer risks and improve digestion and cognition.
Here are a few reasons to spend your food dollars at local Farmers Markets or CSA’s when it comes to your health.
- Seasonal foods are picked at the peak of freshness and offer higher nutritional content than out of season unripe fruits and vegetables. When you eat with the seasons, you can enjoy a rainbow of colorful and diverse foods in your diet as well as providing your body with a wide variety of important vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that you need to maintain vibrant health. 
- Eating seasonal foods helps to support our bodies natural cleansing and healing abilities. For example, spring weather offers many tasty leafy greens and vegetables like dandelion greens, spring onions, and spring garlic which are great healing foods for helping detoxify your liver.
- Fewer toxic chemicals used by local sustainable farmers; pesticides, herbicides, and genetically modified seeds are limited or not used. This can be a major concern for local watersheds were communities get their drinking water from. Additionally, many of these chemicals are known cancer, neurological and reproductive toxins to both animals and people. 
- More money stays in local areas. When you buy seasonal, locally grown foods, you help provide financial support to the farmers in your area which helps to grow your local economy. It is a myth that local foods or organic cost more than produce trucked in. On average seasonal foods are priced more economically than out of season foods which will save you money on your grocery and even doctor bills.
The Science for Seasonally Eating
According to research studies, nutrient content changes in foods depending on which seasons they were produced in. For example, in a study conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in London, England researchers found that nutrient content was different in milk harvested in the summer versus winter. Because of the change in the cow’s diet to less fresh plants in the summer, these cows produced nutritionally different milks. Japanese researchers also found tremendous differences in the nutritional content of spinach harvested in summer versus winter. ,
A Stanford study backs seasonal eating for healthy Microbiome; published in the Science journal; researchers found that the microbes in the members of the Hadza tribe in Tanzania change dramatically with each season, in sync with seasonal changes made to their diet.
The study showed that certain gut microbes that reside within the gut in one season may almost disappear in the next – suggesting there are dramatic changes taking place in the microbiome from one season to the next. The researchers concluded that the Hadza tribe’s gut microbes and their digestion is cyclical, and in sync with the precise bio-rhythm of nature. ,,
A study published by the University of Missouri confirmed availability of local food as key to improving food security. This is so very important for the low income of every community which are made up in large part by elderly and children. Most strategies to assist the hungry, including food banks and providing food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, are short-term, emergency solutions. Those who rely on these programs face daily shortages of fresh and healthy foods, which lead to poor diet choices, nutritional deficiencies, and health problems. An expert at the University of Missouri says the production of sustainable, locally grown foods is key to providing long-term food security for communities.
“We have to recognize that access to food is a human right,” says Michelle Kaiser, researcher in the School of Social Work in the College of Human Environmental Sciences.
So Let’s head out to a local Farmers Market, or CSA – our health will be better for it.