Elderberries and the Equinox
Depending on where you live, the first day of Spring might as well have been April Fools day. I woke up on Friday morning and looked out my window, expecting to see swarms of birds cruising in and out of the frame in a flurry of activity, chirping their morning songs and pecking at last night’s pizza crust. Instead, I witnessed the accumulation of an inch or two of snow on my grill outside while the voice of a talking head weatherman was preparing me to understand that this would continue all day long. And continue it did. Hour after hour, large, wet flakes fell from the sky, passively smirking at our petty declaration that today is the first day of Spring, nature’s plans be damned.
While we can continue to give seasons names, and dates, and label various natural phenomena in attempts to understand and predict them, it will only get us so far. The best thing we can do is to acknowledge something that we know is true of ourselves: when we are undergoing change, we act out in various erratic ways that are often uncharacteristic and extreme. During times such as these, we need to put a greater focus on internal balance lest we fall victim to the bumpy road ahead. If Nature is going through a bit of a teenage, still-finding-itself phase, sunny and warm one day only to be caught snowing all over the place the next, then we must play the part of patient adult and take a measured approach to each new day.
Before I stay in the deep end a bit too long, the point I am trying to make amongst the rambling metaphors is that when the seasons change, our risk of getting sick is higher and we can do ourselves a favor by paying a bit closer attention to what we are putting in our bodies. Assuming that you have been at least a little bit lucid at any point during say, the last fifty years, you have probably heard someone say the phrase, “You are what you eat.” While hearing those words, much less saying them, produces a mental image akin to Ralphie’s relationship with the phrase “You’ll shoot your eye out!” the cliche is undeniably true. We are what we eat. What we put into our bodies directly affects what we get out of them and when the weather outside is unpredictable, we can get sick pretty easily unless we give our bodies a little boost by eating well.
Thankfully, eating well doesn’t always have to equate to sacrificing flavor. Chances are, there are delicious things out there that are both good for you and taste amazing that you haven’t heard of before, or at least tasted. My long-time family friends, the Lenhardts, have an amazing farm and business called Norms Farms and they have turned me onto an ingredient that I had once not given much thought: elderberries. As it turns out, elderberries have a uniquely delicious flavor, falling somewhere in between blueberries and blackberries, and are ridiculously good for you. The Lennies were kind enough to send me a few samples last weekend and I’ve spent the past week reaping the nutritional benefits amidst a week that started and ended with several inches of snow and got into the high 50s in the middle. Typically, a week like this would at the very least have produced a persistent case of the sniffles if not America’s favorite triple threat of sore throat, cough and fever, but I had a little help from my friends this go round and skated right on through.
To honor my dear friends at Norm’s Farms, the recipe for this week features a healthy serving of their delicious Elderberry Wellness Syrup paired with one of my other favorite immune boosting ingredients, matcha powder. These two ingredients work together to create a drink that is both darn tasty, if I don’t say so myself, and is sure to ward off any future colds or help stop the one you already have in its tracks. In the spirit of eating well and nourishing our bodies, here are a few benefits of the main ingredients in this Elderberry Matcha Shake:
- Elderberries: these berries offer a plentiful source of vitamin A, B, and C, along with amino acids, antioxidants and flavonoids which help to improve heart health, improve vision, lower cholesterol, and boost the immune system while reducing the symptoms of coughs, colds, the flu, and bacterial and viral infections.
- Matcha: one glass of matcha is the equivalent of 10 glasses of green tea in terms of its nutritional value and antioxidant content and is rich in fiber, flavonoids, potassium, vitamins A & C, iron, protein, and calcium which help to bolster the immune system, detoxify your body, boost energy, improve memory and concentration and enhance calm.
- Honey: in addition to being a great sugar replacement, eating honey produced in your area also helps to reduce the affect of local allergens and has anti-cancer, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, can help with weight loss, sustained energy, restful sleep and even helps with bouncing back from hangovers!
- Bananas: bananas are chalk full of vitamins B6 and C, and are a good source of manganese, potassium, dietary fiber, biotin, and copper which help to prevent muscle cramps, high blood pressure and risk of stroke along with boosting energy, digestive health and levels of healthy bacteria in the lower gut (crucial to immune system health and regular bowel movements).
- Lemons: this citrus fruit is a great source of vitamins B & C, antioxidants, phosphorous and proteins and is often used in the treatment of high blood pressure, constipation, throat infections, indigestion, fever and dental problems is also used for hair and skin care.
So while the weather is still figuring out what it’s going to do next, we can keeping inching towards a warmer Spring by getting our bodies the good stuff they need to march onward toward April and the better days to come. The journey is always made better with the help of friends and, of course, food that’s good and good for you. Check back later this summer for a feature on Norm’s Farms that will include an interview with the founders and more fun and tasty ways to work Elderberries into your repertoire. Until then, hang in there folks; we’re almost there.