I have found over the years that there are some seriously strong opinions on Chili. How to make it? How to eat it? Meat, no meat? Beans, no beans? Veggies, no veggies? The opinions are endless.
Like many of the meals I make, I rarely make then the same every time. I use what is on hand and vary it. We had a last minute Super Bowl get together yesterday afternoon. I was already making chili for our little family, and was able to quickly make it larger...this one is very beany to make up for the extra people. Actually, it turned out to be one of my better chili's. Want to know a little secret...shhhh...I add dark chocolate to my chili, and oh man does it change the flavor. More mole like.
Spring is right around the corner, and it's about time to start eating with the season. Spring is a transition season, where winter turns to summer. It is also the season of the LIVER organ in Chinese Medicine. Cleansing is very common these days, and in Chinese Medicine. The difference I see with conventional cleansing/detoxing and TCM cleansing/detoxing, is in TCM we plan around the seasons. Spring is the optimal time to do a liver detox. It is, like I said, the season of the Liver, and the season of rebirth. Many of the foods you would naturally use during a liver cleanse are foods of spring. Bitter Greens: Dandelion, Arugula, but also a bit of winter and summer; watermelon, vinegar, lemon. Not going to lie, it makes me cringe a bit to see people doing liver cleanses in January! Please don't! Why? For one, many of the foods used to cleanse are cold in nature or raw when consumed so they create an excess of cold in the body when the environment and temperature around the body is already cold. Another reason is that when you do a cleanse or strong detox, your immune system and body are working hard and on overdrive to clear out toxins. This leaves you exposed to cold's and flu's.
Eating with the Seasons - Spring
TCM View of Spring Nutrition
The weather will soon begin to warm, and plants and animals will begin to reemerge. Spring is a time of activity and Yang; meaning it is ascending, and expansive and active, like the new plants emerging up and out, and is a natural time for cleansing. The ancient text the Inner Classic describes spring as:
a time to "rise early with the sun", and to "take brisk walks".
Spring is a time to eat lighter meals, as the body natural wants to eat less, and to eat fresher foods in an effort to cleanse the body of the fatty and heavy foods of winter. It is a time to eat more raw and sprouted foods, which are thought to bring about renewal and youth.
There is a common flavor to new and springtime foods. They tend to be sweet and/or pungent in flavor. Think of the flavor of sprouts, which have a sweeter flavor than that of the full grown plant, and of the flavor of cooking herbs such as basil, fennel, and dill, which are pungent in flavor.
As with all seasonal eating there is a balance to be maintained through eating local and fresh foods grown during the Spring season, the way they are prepared, and the climate of the region. As the weather warms foods can be cooked for shorter times and with higher heat. This way the food is not thoroughly cooked, and offers a balance.
Benefits of Eating with the Spring Season
We are lucky to live in a region with a moderate climate. Our seasons are pretty distinct and we have a good growing season, meaning we are able to eat an abundant amount of seasonal foods, and receive the most benefit of eating what is local and seasonal.
Living and eating with the rhythm of nature is not only beneficial to our bodies and the environment, but it brings us back to our lost connections with the natural world. I find that when I am eating seasonally I see more beauty in the world around me. I appreciate the effort and energy than goes into the growth of my food, and I feel energized and healthy.
There are so many reason to eat local, seasonal foods:
1. It is often less expensive, and grocery stores tend to have seasonal foods on sale because they are abundant.
2. Foods eaten in season are usually more nutritious, as they do not have to be shipped or stored unripened. Eating seasonally means the food you are consuming was most likely picked ripe and has the maximum about of nutrients.
3. Because seasonal produce is picked when ripe (especially when purchased locally), they taste better. It has been given enough time to ripen naturally without chemicals and develop rich flavor.
4. Seasonal foods can also be grown without too much human intervention, which makes it better for the environment. And when purchased from local farms, the environmental impact is even less, because there isn't an over use of resources to transport and store the produce as it makes its way across country/countries.
5. One of the great things about buying local and seasonal produce is supporting your local community farms. The more people support the local farms, the more demand there will be and the community will flourish. Look into supporting a local CSA.
List of Spring Foods