My dad tells a story about how his grandparents would, in the springtime, hunt various roots and shoots and make them into a spring tonic. These concoctions were meant to clean the blood after a long winter of eating canned food, heavily salted meats and little fresh produce.
I can imagine them, savoring the first weak rays of sunshine as they foraged garlic scapes, combed the fencerows for baby ferns, tended to the well-kept secrets of wild berry bushes. What joy those first harvests must have brought!
How different that is from the way we eat and live today. We can go our entire lives without understanding the seasonality of foods, taking all that we can get from our ’round the clock grocery stores and co-ops. Thanks largely to the state of California, I can buy engorged strawberries in March and artichokes in November if I want…but who wants something like that after the first taste of a real June berry, tiny and sweet like a gem.
In the early summer, old timers start talking about poke salad, or poke sallet, as another tonic for the impending hot months. Taken from the back forties or the fencerows, baby shoots of the pokeweed plant would be peeled, boiled, and tossed in some mixture of butter or bacon fat or raw egg to make a fresh, mineral-rich side dish that must have been so refreshing to palates dulled by winter’s dark.
This is my equivalent of a tonic – a jolting shot of fresh green juice, full of vitamins and water and feel-good freshness. Instead of sasafrass tea or plates of poke, I’ve been putting my birthday present from Andrew to good use each week, churning out a few new combinations of juice, but mainly sticking to this recipe, my old standby. (It is fitting that my birthday present is helping me recover from a two-week-long birthday celebration full of too much cake and wine, isn’t it?)
Vibrant Green Juice
1 head of romaine
1/2 bunch of kale
2 Granny Smith apples
4-6 stalks of celery
1 inch of ginger root
Thoroughly wash and chop juicing materials and, bit by bit, feed into juicer. Make sure to follow softer, juicier vegetables with something more firm, like an apple after a cucumber. Stir to combine and serve over ice.
This is also a great way to use up organic vegetable scraps from the week — trimmed kale stems, cucumber peelings, lemon rinds, and the like. We’re working on putting a backyard composter together to continue to reduce waste and recycle, plus I’m working on learning to cook and bake with my fruit and vegetable pulp. My first experiment was with these muffins, and I’m hoping to turn some savory scraps into a binder for meatloaf or meatballs sometime soon.