Culinary History,  Food History,  Health,  History,  Salad

The Spring Tonic

Maybe it was because I spent my childhood growing up in the hills of North Carolina surrounded by its rich mountain culture. Or maybe it is because as a winter-born child, I am more in tune with the rhythms of the seasons for my life started as spring crept into the world.
But every year, around this time, I find myself thinking back to the rituals our ancestors had for this season of renewal and rebirth. As winter drips into spring, the sap of the trees starts to rise as the sun warms the damp earth. You can almost feel the tingle and sigh of awakening in the air as the trees, grass and plants surround themselves in a haze of spring green. The unfurling of new life.

Herbal apothecary shelf with glass cork top bottles filled with dried herbs with hanging dried plants below
@ Pinterest

One of those Appalachian mountain rituals I think of is the spring tonic.
The history of the spring tonic reaches back to the beginning days of America. Some believe its roots are actually to be found in the indigenous cultures living here in North America before us. The spring tonic was the first taste of the new season. People took a close look over their land or set out into the forest to look for fresh, green plants.
These were gathered and made into a tea, cooked or eaten as a salad. It was a way for the settlers to regain valuable vitamins and minerals after a long winter diet of preserved and dried foods. This ritual of spring was thought to purify and reawaken the blood. The spring tonic could include any mixture or amount of the following.

  • Burdock
  • Nettle
  • Dandelion roots and greens
  • Violets
  • Sassafras
  • Red Clover
  • Watercress
  • Wild Ginseng
  • Mint
  • Birch Bark
  • Strawberry
  • Lamb’s Quarters
  • Spruce Tips
  • Plantain
  • Chickweed

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