Green spring tonics are a time-honored tradition to encourage gentle liver and gall bladder renewal. Leafy greens, both wild and cultivated, are some of the most nutrient dense vegetables of all. In this post we’ll discuss their nutritional and other health benefits.

This is a time when we transition from winter hibernation to summer growth. Because we are part of the earth and its cycles, it’s crucial to align with this seasonal change by strengthening digestion and immunity.

Certain foods and culinary herbs are specifically indicated for supporting this transition. They tend to be ones that promote digestive and eliminative functions, or strengthen the immune and endocrine (hormonal) systems.

In Traditional Chinese Five Element Theory (TCM), the flavor of spring is sour. The sour flavor and the wood element influence the liver and gall bladder. Sour foods include vinegar, sauerkraut (and other lacto-fermented vegetables), lemon, quinoa and amaranth, turnips, greens, quinoa, fennel, and caraway seeds. Sourness has an astringent and consolidating effect in the body. It can control diarrhea and excess perspiration or help focus a scattered mind.

Sour foods will help us simplify and align with spring. In India’s time-honored tradition of Ayurvedic Medicine, spring is known as the Kapha season. Kapha, the earth element, is heavy, grounded, and can feel stuck when it is out of balance. While spring waters are flowing and mud is everywhere, uplift your body, mind, and spirit, with a daily walk, deep breathing, and sour food.

I was raised in the Mediterranean tradition, where we harvested dandelion greens each spring to make a deliciously bitter salad with olive oil, salt, vinegar, and grated carrots. I remember how much my grandmother loved vinegar. She dressed our salads generously with this sour, fermented liquid. Carrots tempered the sour and bitter flavors to create a harmonious dish.

Spring is a wonderful time to engage in a food meditation while cooking. As you chop, stir, and smell, try to be quiet and pay attention to the alchemy of cooking. This practice, along with the inclusion of sour foods and bitter greens, will help you feel more patient, calm, assertive, flexible, and alert.


Amaranth, a member of the chenopodium family along with quinoa, beets, spinach, and chard, is a protein-packed seed. Indigenous to Oaxaca, Mexico, its bitter and sour flavors increase gastric secretions, thereby improving digestion. I love it for breakfast in the spring.

Simple cooked amaranth

  • Combine 1 cup amaranth with 2 1/2 cups water in a pot and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat, cover and simmer for up to 20 minutes, until grains are fluffy and water is absorbed. For a porridge-like consistency, use 3 cups water for 1 cup grain and cook a little longer.

Amaranth flatbread

  • Take 2 cups cooked amaranth and mix in a bowl with: 2 Tablespoons flaxseed meal, 4 Tablespoons coconut flour, 2 Tablespoons coconut oil, and 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, cinnamon, salt
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes in an oiled pie or baking dish.
  • Cool and enjoy with sauces and spreads of your choosing!

This is a traditional Japanese recipe. It’s my favorite burdock recipe.

  • 2 burdock roots, scrubbed and peeled
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons tamari
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey


  1. Cut the burdock root into 1/2 inch long pieces. Slice each piece lengthwise then cut into matchsticks. Put the burdock root pieces in a bowl with enough water to cover, and let soak for a few minutes. Drain away the water and set aside.
  2. Cut the carrot into matchsticks, too. There’s no need to soak the carrots.
  3. Heat up a large frying pan with the sesame oil.
  4. Add the burdock root and carrots and sauté briefly, tossing to coat the pieces with oil.
  5. Add the chili pepper flakes if desired and stir.
  6. Add the honey, tamari, and about 1/2 cup of water.
  7. Lower the heat to medium, and continue cooking and stirring until the moisture has disappeared from the pan.
  8. Taste a piece of burdock root for doneness: it should be crisp-tender. If it’s too crunchy for you, add a bit more water and cook some more.

Kinpira keeps in the refrigerator for three days. It can also be frozen in individual portions. Enjoy with cooked brown rice and sardines tossed with steamed kale.

Writer Lisa Mase is a culinary medicine coach, food writer, translator, and ​folk ​herbalist living in Vermont.​ For articles and recipes, visit Lisa at

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.