We are now about half way between the darkest time of year, the winter solstice, and the spring/vernal equinox, when the day and night are equal in length. During these first two weeks of spring (Lì Chūn 立春 Start of Spring), the still and restorative energy of yin still dominates. However, the warming, energizing qualities of yang are rising. Read about yin and yang basics.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, spring is related to the wood element. Spring and wood are associated with new growth, flexibility, and activity. The organ/meridian system associated with spring is the liver. The associated emotion is anger and the 'virtue' is kindness/compassion, a complementary pairing. When reflected upon, anger can reveal what matters to us and what we care about, whether it is how we value ourselves and want to be treated, or a greater injustice in the world, and inspire us to act for positive change from a place of compassion.
Since the winter solstice (Dec 21), the vital energy of yang has been slowly growing while yin naturally wanes, seen in the lengthening days. During the winter we focused on dreaming, conceiving, and planning. With the arrival of spring we begin a more dynamic state and move those plans into action. The Su Wen, (classic Chinese medical text) states,
"The three months of spring are the period in which things begin to grow out of the energy of the past winter. The heavens begin to generate warm energy, the earth begins to develop it, and ten thousand things begin to flourish. In the spring it is desirable to sleep late at night, get up early in the morning, and take slow walks in the yard. In the spring, one should loosen up one's hairs and relax one's body to facilitate the development of one's emotions."
Stay up a bit later, rise a bit earlier, stretch and go outside more, and engage with life . Using the slow transition of nature as our model, we don't simply flip a switch and go from zero to sixty, but gradually transition into more active days. We patiently stretch and rise from our winters rest; begin to step back into the external world and make use of the lengthening days.
Bay Area Spring Foods
Spring is a time to eat "lighter" and easier to digest foods as well as foods that build qi and blood and support the spleen and stomach. It also a good time to replace heavy and rich winter stews with more steamed veggies and light soups. In the Bay Area, in-season spring foods include asparagus, artichokes, kohlrabi, turnips, citrus fruit (lemons, mandarins, grapefruit, pomelos, etc), turnips and winter radishes, among others. Try this artichoke and asparagus frittata; a perfect qi and blood building recipe to usher in the early days of spring.
Artichoke & Asparagus Frittata
Makes 4 servings
1 pound baby artichokes, trimmed of outer leaves
6 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons dried oregano
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup chopped spinach leaves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
5 or 6 thin asparagus stalks, with the woody ends discarded and the remaining stalk cut in half
1 cup chopped spinach leaves
- Steam artichokes until tender or boil gently (salt if desired), 10 to 15 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and cut into quarters. - Beat the eggs. Stir in the salt, pepper, oregano and 3 tablespoons of the cheese. Stir in the spinach. - Preheat oven to 400 degrees. - Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet, and add the onion. Cook for a few minutes until onion starts to become tender. Add the artichoke quarters. Cook, stirring often, until golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Pour in the egg mixture. Swirl the pan to distribute the eggs, filling evenly over the surface. Scatter the asparagus over the top. Shake the pan gently and tilt/ lift up a the edge of the omelette a bit with a spatula. -Turn the heat down to low and cook for 8-10 minutes, shaking the pan very gently every 2 minutes or so to make sure the eggs cook evenly. When the eggs are mostly set, remove from heat. Bake the frittata in the oven for 1 to 5 minutes. Make sure the top doesn't burn and make sure the eggs are firm and cooked through. (It should brown slightly and will puff up a bit.) Remove from the heat and immediately sprinkle on the remaining Parmesan cheese.