Spring Tonic Superfoods for Wellness
Looking for natural foods for health? These 7 seasonal ingredients and 21 recipes are a delicious way to go.
Spring is emerging, and so are some treasured crops of the season. Once called spring tonics, these power plants were relied on in days before refrigeration for renewed nutrients and vitality after a long winter when fresh foods weren’t available.
This spring is unlike any our ancestors experienced. Instead of emerging to greet the world, we’re sticking close to home. Even so, we still have access to many fresh and nutrient-packed foods that are traditionally associated with wellness this time of year.
While we’re not doctors, we do know that eating healthy foods can make a difference in how you think and feel. The mighty plant foods that follow will infuse your meals with flavor, color, and good-for-you properties. Though selections at stores can vary right now, we’re betting you can get at least a few of these at any given time. So keep calm and cook on (as much as you can) and nab these mighty plant foods to encourage natural wellness.
Distinctively grassy and a little bit sweet, this much-loved member of the lily family cooks quickly and requires little prep. But beyond convenience, asparagus offers a bonanza of nutrients. It’s high in fiber (which helps keep your microbiome chugging along) and folate (which aids in cell growth). It’s also a good source of vitamins C and E, which are both antioxidants that reduce inflammation.
Creamy Asparagus Soup
Sit down to a bright green bowl of satisfying soup. Asparagus is so flavorful it doesn’t need much help, so the only other things you need to chop (and find in the store) are onion and garlic. What makes the soup creamy? Just tons of puréed asparagus, plus a little milk—so you can feel good about second helpings.
Asparagus roasts in a snap, making it a perfect quick veggie side. Sometimes I eat the long spears with my fingers, as if they were French fries. Try it!
Tofu makes this Asparagus Stir-Fry into a meal, and the cashews add even more filling protein. Don’t have all the ingredients? You can easily swap peanuts or almonds for cashews, and omit the herbs or spinach. We've been having trouble finding tofu, too, lately - check to see if your store has that before falling in love with the recipe (or sub tempeh, if that's available, as one Yummly user did).
The vegetable known as “pie plant” is so much more than a tart, fruity filling for desserts. Rhubarb is high in vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting, bone metabolism, and balancing calcium in the blood. It’s also a good source of fiber and of anthocyanin, a plant compound related to its ruby color that may help in cancer prevention.
You may have heard that rhubarb leaves are toxic, and you should definitely trim any before using the stalks. Though rhubarb stalks are totally safe to eat, you'll still want to enjoy them in moderation. One of the compounds that makes rhubarb tart, oxalic acid, can upset your stomach in large amounts. Another reason to be conservative? Rhubarb recipes are often high in sugar. The recipes below let rhubarb’s sour power shine.
Somewhat like a grownup’s pink lemonade, a shrub is a refreshing drink that’s kissed with vinegar. A batch of this three-ingredient recipe in your fridge is a welcome mocktail to keep you hydrated in style. Mix it with club soda or sparkling water to make it even more interesting.
You’re just a few pantry staples away from a tangy sweet vinaigrette that’s akin to poppy seed dressing, but not as cloyingly sweet. Equally at home on a classic tossed salad as it is a refreshing dip for raw veggies (cucumber spears, celery stalks), this cheerful and mild dressing will last in the fridge for at least a week.
Rhubarb in salsa!? Why not? After all, salsa is zingy with acid, and so is rhubarb. Blanch the rhubarb in a flash so it’s still nice and crunchy, then toss it with cilantro, bell peppers, jalapeño, and a dab of brown sugar.
A member of the cabbage family (along with broccoli, brussels sprouts, and a host of other heavy hitters), mustard greens are nutrient-dense, delivering lots of vitamin K, which aids in bone, blood, and brain health. They’re also abundant in folic acid, vitamin C, and vitamin A. There’s a variety of mustard greens out there; curly, bright green ones are the most common in grocery stores. Spring’s cooler temps make for tasty, less bitter greens. If you get an especially spicy bunch, cooking usually tames the bite.
Lively mustard greens are a fitting foil for rich salmon. And the fish itself offers omega-3 fatty acids, which keep inflammation at bay.
A staple of Vietnamese and Chinese cuisines, pickled mustard greens are typically an ingredient in other dishes, but you can enjoy them as-is. This is a simple ferment, with green onions and chilies for extra interest, and it works best with mature greens.
Members of the allium family that includes onions and garlic, leeks contain sulfuric compounds and phytochemicals that may contribute to a healthy heart, help regulate blood pressure, and even protect against cancer. Leeks can be milder than onions, and they become especially silky when braised.
A simple simmered soup translates perfectly to the hands-off slow cooker. This recipe has tips for quickly prepping leeks to rid them of the grit usually sandwiched between their layers.
Rich with butter, these braised leeks become tender and sweet. A little fresh thyme (sub in dried if you don't have fresh) spruces them up. They go well with simply steamed white-fleshed fish, or seared scallops.
Don’t let the fancy name intimidate you: Tartines are simple open-face sandwiches topped with creamy ricotta and buttery-soft leeks. This recipe calls for homemade ricotta, but do yourself a solid and just buy some from the store, unless you’re looking for a fun cabin-fever project.
Though available in stores year-round, strawberries get sweeter and more flavorful as the weather warms up. Another reason to enjoy them in spring: They’re nutrition powerhouses. Nearly everyone loves to eat strawberries raw, which is good news, since they’re full of vitamin C, which is greatly reduced during cooking. They’re also packed with anthocyanins, color compounds found in plants that have antioxidant properties. Since many pesticides are used in growing conventional strawberries, buy organic if you can, and always rinse them well just before eating or cooking.
Basil & Spinach Strawberry Salad
A winning berry/fresh herb combo, this salad is easy to customize with the cheese and nuts of your choice.
Colorful as confetti, this salsa is a party itself. Serve it over chicken breasts, salmon, or tuna steaks—or smear crusty bread with soft goat cheese and pile this on top.
Sage may help support oral health, and it adds an interesting dimension to familiar strawberries in the shrub drink recipe. Is the store out of fresh berries? No problem—this recipe calls for frozen ones (though of course, use fresh if those are easier to come by). Make the refreshing sipper with sparkling wine or club soda.
Delicacies like morels may be exclusive to spring, but even run-of-the-mill white mushrooms have so many benefits it’s foolish not to give them props. They’re a good source of B vitamins, and they offer prebiotics, plant fibers that work in your digestive tract to promote a healthy gut. Mushrooms could also contribute to a healthy immune system. Mushrooms should be cooked for maximum digestibility and nutrient absorption.
Hungarian Mushroom Soup
Earthy paprika is offset with sour cream in this classic warming soup. You can use any mix of mushrooms you like.
Filling enough to be a main dish when served with fried eggs on top, this quick vegetarian mushroom sauté gets a handful of spinach at the end; kale or even cabbage would make fine substitutes.
A shortcut with a jar of marinara means you can make the ragout with pantry ingredients, as long as you can get the mushrooms.
The dandelion greens you see in the store are bred to be less bitter and tough than the ones growing in your yard (though feel free to try the latter, as long as your lawn isn't sprayed with chemicals). The phytonutrients responsible for their bitter flavor are also responsible for their fabulous health benefits, which are said to include anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. To ease the potent bite of dandelion greens, a little acid (vinegar or citrus) is helpful, as is a small amount of strategically deployed bacon, or other cured meat.
Dandelion Greens Salad
If you love a classic wilted spinach salad, try this. A vinaigrette spiked with bacon drippings and a little maple syrup makes this eminently edible.
You can use any broth you prefer in this soothing soup, including store-bought bone broth. A little sweet white miso diffuses the dandelion’s sharpness.
A welcome breakfast, lunch, dinner, or brinner, this last recipe utilizes the potatoes you may have stockpiled. Don’t be afraid of using the anchovies called for, but if you don’t have any, add a little Worcestershire sauce instead.
More recipes for quarantine cooking
We're with you at Yummly during the coronavirus to make home cooking as easy and flexible as possible. You'll find lots more ideas in our quarantine cooking collection.