"Spring cleanse" means different things to different people. In common is the idea of trying to help the body rid itself of toxins that have accumulated over the winter, and that usually means "cleaning out the pipes," so to speak (colon cleansing). From there, paths diverge.
Some people fast for a weekend, or a week, drinking only water or juices. Other people take cleanse supplements for one to three weeks, supplements that often contain chlorophyll and a lot of nutritional fiber. Still others drink green smoothies, using raw green vegetables and fruit combinations pureed in a blender.
Does any of this actually remove toxins? And what toxins are we talking about?
Dr. Mahmet Oz, of "Oprah" show fame, says this: "We're exposed to harmful substances all the time; they're in our diet (pesticides, microbes and mercury, to name a few) and the very air we breathe (think disinfectants, deodorizers and the gasses released by fresh paint). Fortunately, we have an excellent system in place to handle those toxins: Enzymes throughout the body are continuously breaking them down and helping to flush them out."
He goes on to say that a cleanse "involves eating whole foods that are packed with nutrients believed to boost the activity of the enzymes and nourish the body's most important detoxifying organs - the liver, the lungs, the kidneys and the colon - so they can do their jobs better and more efficiently."
I don't know how that's different from what I try to do every day, but the truth is, I like the idea of a spring cleanse. In fact, some doctors believe the psychological effects are as important as any physical effects.
While I've tried all of the methods mentioned above at one time or another, I've come to prefer an easier and more natural spring routine. I just eat lots of the wonderful fresh greens that are abundantly available every spring. They provide plenty of chlorophyll and natural fiber, along with massive amounts of nutrition and flavor.
A quick visit to Bellingham Farmers Market on Saturday (10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Railroad Avenue and Chestnut Street) will show you the plethora of tasty and tender greens you can use to enhance your spring menus. Some varieties are probably familiar, such as kale and chard, while others may be new to you.
Many spring greens are tender and best eaten raw. You've probably encountered the peppery flavor of arugula, for example, since it's a popular addition to salads, sandwiches and plate garnishes in restaurants. Others, like mizuna (see recipe below), may be new taste experiences you'll come to treasure.
Other greens are sturdier and can be eaten either raw or cooked. Broccoli raab, also used in the recipe below, is one of my favorites. Both red and green varieties have been available at the market since it restarted its weekly schedule at the beginning of April. Raab is an early way to enjoy the fresh flavor of broccoli long before the more familiar heads of broccoli are ready to be harvested. Kids may even love raab raw!
Finally, don't forget the leaves of other vegetables. Beet greens may be familiar to you, but what about radish greens? Often discarded, these leaves are a source of wonderful flavor and can be eaten raw or lightly steamed.
Regardless of what you think about spring cleansing, here's an experiment I challenge you to try. Go to the market next Saturday and buy a small sample of at least three types of greens you've never tasted. Try them mixed in salads, steamed or boiled as side dishes (a splash of apple cider vinegar will cut any excessive bitterness), chop them into scrambled eggs or pasta, add them to smoothies, include them in soups - the possibilities are endless. Be creative!
WARM SPRING SALAD WITH POACHED EGG
1 tablespoon plus additional apple cider vinegar (BelleWood Acres, Lynden)
1 egg (Red Barn Lavender, Ferndale)
1 small handful red broccoli raab (Rabbit Fields Farm, Everson)
1 small handful mizuna greens (Rabbit Fields Farm, Everson)
1-2 French radishes, sliced lengthwise (Rabbit Fields Farm, Everson)
Hazelnut oil (Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards, Lynden)
Put 2-3 cups of water in a small pan. Add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Bring water and vinegar to a rapid boil, then turn the burner to low and let it sit to let the temperature cool. If you have a candy or other cooking thermometer, the goal is 160 to 180 degrees. That usually means your lowest burner setting.
Crack the egg into a small bowl, ideally no more than 4 inches in diameter. Hold the bowl in one hand and, with your other hand, use a spoon to stir the water in the pot quickly in a circle, creating a sort of vortex in the center of the pot. Remove the spoon, and in the same instant tip the bowl into the center of the vortex, slipping the egg gently into the water. The vortex will pull the egg whites together beautifully.
Cook the egg for about 4 minutes, or until the top is opaque but the yolk has not hardened. Use a slotted spoon to retrieve the egg and set it gently on a paper or cotton towel to drain.
Meanwhile, in a separate small pan, bring an inch of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Place the red broccoli raab (green will work, too) in a steamer and put the steamer in the pan over the water. (If you don't have a steamer, you can boil the raab in enough boiling water to cover.)
Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Steam (or boil) just until the raab begins to go soft, 2-3 minutes. Drain well.
To assemble the salad, place a layer of the mizuna greens on a salad plate. Put the warm raab on that. Add the French radish slices.
Drizzle a little hazelnut oil and apple cider vinegar over the vegetables to taste.
Place the poached egg on top of all, add salt to taste, and serve immediately.
You'll find Whatcom County foods at these stores and farms. Many outlets have seasonal hours. We recommend you call or check websites for current hours.
Acme Farms + Kitchen, 1313 N State Street, Bellingham
Appel Farms Cheese Shoppe, 6605 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4996
Artisan Wine Gallery, 2072 Granger Way, Lummi Island; 360-758-2959
BelleWood Acres, 6140 Guide Meridian, Lynden; 360-318-7720
Bellingham Country Gardens (u-pick vegetables), 2838 East Kelly Road, Bellingham
Bellingham Farmers Market, Railroad at Chestnut; 360-647-2060
Boxx Berry Farm Store and u-pick, 6211 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-380-2699
Cloud Mountain Farm Nursery, 6906 Goodwin Road, Everson; 360-966-5859
Community Food Cooperative, 1220 N. Forest St. and 315 Westerly Road, Bellingham; 360-734-8158
Five Loaves Farm, 514 Liberty St., Lynden
Ferndale Public Market, Centennial Riverwalk, Ferndale; 360-410-7747
Grace Harbor Farms, 2347 Birch Bay Lynden Road, Custer; 360-366-4151
The Green Barn, 211 Birch Bay-Lynden Road, Lynden; 360-318-8869
Hopewell Farm, 3072 Massey Road, Everson; 360-927-8433
The Islander, 2106 S. Nugent Road, Lummi Island; 360-758-2190
Joe's Garden, 3110 Taylor Avenue, Bellingham, 360-671-7639
Lynden Farmers Market, Fourth and Front streets, Lynden
The Markets LLC, 1030 Lakeway, Bellingham; 8135 Birch Bay Square St., Blaine; 360-714-9797
Pleasant Valley Dairy, 6804 Kickerville Road, Ferndale; 360-366-5398
Red Barn Lavender Farm (egg CSA), 3106 Thornton Road, Ferndale; 360-393-7057
Small's Gardens, 6451 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4637
Terra Organica, 1530 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham; 360-715-8020
Reach Whatcom Locavore columnist Nancy Ging at 360-758-2529 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To follow her day- to-day locavore activities, go to Whatcom Locavore on Facebook or @whatcomlocavore on Twitter. For locavore menus, recipes and more resources, go to whatcomlocavore.com.