Spring has not quite sprung, but why not start eating like it’s springtime? What does that mean? Time to move your cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves to the back of the spice cabinet (though we do love those), and let the bright flavors of spring fill your kitchen. Ginger, mint, and parsley will be sure to bring you out of your winter slumber and awaken the senses.
Flavoring your spring dishes won’t only benefit your belly, they are amazing for the body as well. Spring spices pack an added nutritional punch, revving up your metabolism, lowering blood cholesterol, and helping your skin glow. Try these spices today and pretty soon the birds will be chirping and bees will be buzzing.
An ancient medicinal property in Indian and Asian cultures, ginger is spicy and aromatic, with a hint of sweetness. Turn up the heat as well as your nutrition on your spring dishes. Your mom didn’t tell you to drink ginger ale for an upset stomach for no reason. Ginger is known to cure gastrointestinal distress, decrease inflammation, protect against certain cancers, and boost the immune system. Grate fresh ginger over stir fry, add to lemonade for refreshing spice and flavor, or mix with orange juice for a marinade for roasted sweet potatoes.
The aroma of fresh green mint leaves just screams spring—fresh, lemony, and delicious. The changing seasons leaving you with a runny nose and sore throat? Refreshing mint is effective at opening up the airways and relieving irritation from coughing. That pick-me-up you feel when drinking mint tea isn’t only in your head. Mint is a natural stimulant whose essential oils are great for relaxing anxious nerves and pulling you out of a moody rut. Try making pesto with mint to mix into pasta, drizzle over meat or fish. Chop up some fresh watermelon and mix with feta cheese and top with sprigs of mint. Or for an extra spring treat, add a half cup of chopped mint leaves to your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe for mint chocolate chip cookies.
You can never mistake an Indian restaurant from down the block with its intense sweet-spicy aroma. Curry is a mixture of traditional Indian spices and these combinations vary by regions across India, South Asia, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Cooked as a sauce with tomatoes, sugar snap peas, and chopped summer squash, you have a beautiful spring dish to feed the masses. Curry has shown to reduce the risk of cancer, aid in blood sugar control, and can be used for detoxification.
Licorice, anise, refreshing is how to describe this mystery spice. Fresh fennel grows like a bulb from the ground, chop it up and eat it raw or in a salad—super delicious. Dried fennel seeds are where you get the spice from. Fennel is great for eye health and is useful in the treatment of high blood pressure. Grind fennel seeds or quickly dry fry them to bring out their flavor. Add them to flavor meat and vegetable dishes or mix into bread and muffin batters.
The saffron plant is a thing of beauty—lavender petals with red and yellow threads blooming out of the center. These threads, called stigmas, are cultivated and dried, and these red strands are what you buy in stores. Up to 75,000 saffron flowers are required to produce one pound of saffron spice, making saffron one of the most expensive spices you can buy. A little goes a long way, however, and the flavor and color it gives to your dishes is definitely worth the price. Saffron is good for reducing the risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and atherosclerosis. Popular as an addition to rice, risotto, and even cakes and desserts, you will love that bright yellow color that saffron gives your dishes.
Basil is related to the peppermint with its sweet, refreshing smell, and green rounded leaves, yet has unique characteristics all on its own. 60 varieties of basil exist, from lemon basil to cinnamon basil; change up the variety based on your recipe. Basil has anti-inflammatory properties, nutrients essential for heart health, and anti-bacterial effects. For a delicious spring appetizer, layer fresh tomato slices, peach slices, mozzarella cheese, and basil for a caprese salad or put it on a crusty ciabbata with pesto for a spring picnic lunch.