Several delicious and delicate members of the allium family crop up in early spring. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, different flavors are nourishing to different organs and can be emphasized at different times of year to keep the body in balance with the seasons. The onion family is pungent and benefits the lungs, promotes warmth, moves impurities in the blood, reduces clotting, and expels the cold. But each member of the onion family has secondary flavors as well, nurturing additional organs.
For example, onion lowers blood pressure and cholesterol as well as breaking up phlegm and congestion in the sinuses. Tea of chopped onion simmered in water until soft and mixed with honey can sooth colds. Use small onions and take every four hours.
Leeks thrive in cool weather and are planted in fall or early spring. They over winter and store well, so are readily available while snow is still dusting the ground. The white base of this sweet, delicate plant turns translucent when finely chopped and sautéd. The green parts are also sweet, delicate, with a hint of oniony tang and bitter chlorophyll. They maintain a beautiful, vibrant color when cooked--also best thinly chopped.
Leek recipes are boundless. They are often paired with spring potatoes in soups or roasts. They make stunning, sweet, buttery quiches. Simply sauté before scrambling or whipping into eggs & ricotta. Leeks are also a lovely addition to stir fries and omelets. It's hard to go wrong with this light, bright flavor.
Ramps are native to the forests of eastern North America, sometimes called wild leeks in the north. They are a seasonal favorite in our region available fresh at farmers' markets. These woodland alliums are hard to beet--buttery, tender, sweet and fresh. Some people simply eat ramps as a delectable side dish roasted, grilled, or sauted. The flavor of ramps can also be shown off in whole grain, risotto, pasta, egg, or potato dishes. They can be used fresh in pesto or salads.
The sweetness of ramps corresponds to stomach and spleen in Traditional Chinese medicine.
Green onions, also called spring onions, are staple of many cuisines and stand by of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Their distinctive flavor and crisp crunchy texture make them an excellent addition soups and tacos alike. Our family uses them often in Dad's Chicken Soup, as well as ramen and pho. They're fantastic on home made tacos with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Green onions also pair well with sausage omelets, and in any dishes using cumin and hot peppers. This is a versatile household staple year round. It is especially fresh and potent in spring when it is most needed for spring sniffles and colds.
Green onions are pungent and bitter and therefore support the heart and lungs. Promotes sweating and urination too. Great for early stage colds. In addition to soups, a traditional way to alleviate colds is to simmer fresh green onion in milk. Breast milk can be simmered with green onion and then strained for infants with early stage colds--but always consult your healthcare practitioner on the best course of treatment if your baby is sick.
Distinctively spicy and sweet, chives have a sharp enough flavor to complement cream cheese. Their deliciously acidic lightness makes them a versatile seasoning. Like their relatives, they shine among starchy or creamy counterparts, from omelets to soft cheeses, homemade taco fillings, crepe fillings, and fresh-baked bread, biscuits, or rolls. Chives can be an excellent way to spice up and freshen salads and soups alike.
Garlic chives are equally delicious, but sweet and garlicy, making out of this world pesto and pairing with any dish that uses garlic.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, chives support the stomach, kidneys and liver. Great for supporting the healing of bruises and swelling, especially if caused by an injury. Supports digestion when someone has watery stools by building digestive heat! Chives help with other lower body issues relating to urinary function too.
Chive flowers have the same spicy sweet flavor as the leaves. A beautiful garnish for soups, salads, dips, spreads, and even baked goods. The flowerheads can be kept whole, or broken apart into individual tiny flowers.
Garlic chives have white flower heads and are equally delicious. Their garlic flavor pairs well with the oniony flavor of purple chive flowers.
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