Spring in Chinese Medicine is the time when the world and our bodies are waking up out of the very cold, dark, Yin winter and become activated by new growth. It is a time of the reactivation of the Yang or warm and energetic nature of our being. The organ system of spring is the Liver, although Spleen also must be considered as the basis of digestion and energy production.
In Chinese medicine the Liver represents the wood element. This is the element of new growth, activity and reawakening. Like the new shoots of spring trees, grasses and plants, our Liver needs to be strong and balanced to facilitate the increased activity levels usually seen after a long winter.
Certain foods and tastes are beneficial for the Liver and are important to incorporate in a Spring diet. Slightly warm, acrid foods like garlic and ginger help spark the body to increased blood flow. Sour foods are said to stabilize the Liver and prevent excesses or “winds” that create symptoms like headache or dizziness. Green foods are great to start incorporating this time of year. The spring is a good time to start having a few raw or very lightly cooked foods, versus the heavier warmed foods recommended in the winter. We should avoid heavy, fatty or excessively sour foods, as they can over inhibit the Liver organ system’s energies.
This is an easy recipe for a light soup that can be served alone or as part of a larger meal. The recipe is vegetarian, but you can add a bit of cooked chicken, leftover thinly sliced flank steak, a poached egg or even a few cooked shrimp if you want to add some protein. It is adapted from a recipe in Paul Pitchford’s “Healing with Whole Foods”.
Quick and Easy Spring Noodle Soup
- 2 c. cooked noodles (rice noodles, pho noodles, linguine or spiralized zucchini “zoodles” work well)
- 4 c. vegetable (or chicken) stock
- 1 slice fresh ginger (about ¼”)
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and lightly smashed
- 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into “coins”
- 1 green onion, sliced finely
- 2 c. lightly chopped spring greens (dandelion greens, mustard greens, baby kale or baby spinach work well)
- ½ c. bean sprouts
- Sea salt to taste
Heat stock with garlic and ginger to a simmer. Add carrot and onion. Simmer until carrot starts to tenderize. Remove garlic and ginger pieces. Add greens and sprouts, stirring until greens start to wilt. Add noodles (and meats if desired) and heat to warm through. Season to taste with a pinch of sea salt.
Serve hot with garnishes such as chopped cilantro, a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice, a dash of hot sauce or drizzle of sesame oil.