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Food History

Spring with a splash of Easter color

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Wild Trillium in white phase. This is one of the earliest spring flowers to be found in the Pacific North West Forests, coming out around Easter and Spring equinox.

by Tammera J. Karr, PhD

The familiar dyed Easter egg, which annually rolls along lawns and frustrates little children armed with colored wicker baskets, is a carryover from the pagan holiday which preceded the Christian holy day.  Easter has a close association with food. The word comes from the Anglo-Saxon goddess of light and spring, Eostre, and special dishes were prepared in her honor so that the year would be endowed with fertility.

The egg figures into both Christian and Jewish springtime holidays. Egg-shaped confections are unique to Easter, and – until just over a century ago – found primarily in France.

People in central European have a long tradition of elaborately decorated eggs. Polish, Slavic, Russian and Ukrainian create intricate designs on the fragile eggs. Yugoslavian eggs bear the initials “XV” for “Christ is Risen,” a traditional Easter greeting. The Russians, during the reign of the tsars, celebrated Easter much more elaborately than Christmas, with Easter bread and special foods and decorated eggs given as gifts.

In Baltic Russia, the Easter cake kulich, made from a yeast dough of enormous proportions and lavishly decorated with crystallized citrus peel is a traditional food served during Easter. In traditional Baltic households, it is placed on a table decorated with painted eggs and the children of the family gather to share the eggs and bread.

The Pennsylvania Dutch imported the Easter Hare, who delivered colored eggs to good children. By the early nineteenth century; entire Pennsylvania Dutch villages would turn out with gaily decorated Easter eggs to play games, including egg-eating contests.

In Europe, there are traditions, not limited to Christian denominations, of eating the season’s new lamb, just coming onto the market. The roast lamb served on Easter Sunday began with the first Passover of the Jewish people.

Here are more healthy spring foods for you to enjoy.

Artichokes are a good source of protein, vitamin C, folate, potassium, and magnesium, and are a rich source of fiber. They also contain a compound called cynarin, extracts of which have been found to protect and regenerate the liver and regulate cholesterol levels.

Asparagus, a 100-gram portion of asparagus, contains three-quarters of the folate and a quarter of the vitamin C required each day. It is also a useful source of beta-carotene, vitamin E and potassium.

Broccoli is an excellent source of beta-carotene and vitamin C, and contains calcium, potassium, and folate – vital nutrients for immune health and strong bones. Broccoli is also rich in indole-3-carbinol (I3C). In preliminary research, I3C has been reported to affect oestrogen metabolism that protects against breast and other female cancers.

Cabbage is high in vitamin C and anti-cancer compounds; dithiolthiones, glucosinolates, indoles, isothiocyanates, coumarins and phenols, which work by enhancing the body’s ability to detoxify chemicals and by increasing antioxidant activity. Raw cabbage juice is documented for peptic ulcers. This is associated with a substance called S-methylmethionine, which promotes healing and relieves pain.

Leeks are surprisingly nutritious, providing a good source of many nutrients, including vitamins C and B6, folate, manganese, and iron.

Peas being legumes,  are higher in calories than most vegetables due to high carbohydrate content, they also contain protein and fiber are an excellent source of folate and vitamins A and C.

Radishes can be red, black or white. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and are noted to have a positive effect on the symptoms of colds and coughs.

Watercresses is a “superfood”,  brimming beta-carotene, vitamins B and C, calcium, and iron. Watercress is an excellent source of phytochemicals and is the richest source of phenethyl isothiocyanate, which provides the unique peppery flavor. In a number of studies, watercress has been shown to have potent anti-cancer properties.

Spring is a great time to try early greens available through the farmers markets,  as well as a traditional spring lamb.

 

To your good health and Happy Spring.

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Resources:

http://www.kievitskroon.co.za/news/easter-food-traditions-explained/

http://cadyluckleedy.com/tag/easter/

https://foodtimeline.org/easter.html

http://www.afamilyfeast.com/roasted-lamb-london-broil-style/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watercress

http://www.ion.ac.uk/information/onarchives/10springfoods

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