Spring Rain Grows the Grain


Spring brings a different type of rain, one that nourishes the plants. In the Chinese agricultural calendar we are in the seasonal node of Grain Rain, which starts on approximately April 19th.

As the weather continues its dance between sun and clouds, warmth and chill, still air and wind we continue our journey through spring. Soon, the cold snaps will ease and we will feel the warmth of the sun. For now, this period is known for its wet weather (April Showers brings May Flowers) and the planting has begun. New growth and vegetables are beginning to be more evident. This is a time to nourish ourselves to ensure inner movement of qi and blood with easy digestion.

Liver Qi and Stress

According to Chinese medicine, spring is the time of the liver qi. The Liver regulates the smooth and harmonious low of qi in the body, thus affecting the smooth movement of muscles and joints as well as our inner sense of flow and ease.

Our bodies and minds are more sensitive stress than may be apparent to us. Stress and tension can accumulate activating the sympathetic nervous system, sending adrenaline coursing through the body, constricting blood vessels and muscles, increasing heart rate and preparing the body for survival, even if our survival is not threatened.

Stress can lead to muscle tension can bring on neck pain and headaches, while stress can incite feelings of frustration, impatience and irritability. Stress can also exacerbate sleep issues, digestive distress, peri and menopausal symptoms, indigestion, menstrual issues, bloating and a general feeling of overwhelm.

Whew! So what can we do?

Move Your Qi

Move your body in ways that you enjoy! Movement is natural and any movement you do daily is great: dance, walk, bike, run, stretch, do yoga, tai chi, Qi Gong, hike, stretch and always practice breathing deeply into your entire body.

Here is a stress reducing breathing exercise:

Breathe in through your nose for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts and slowly exhale through your mouthfor 4 counts as if you are bending a flame on a candle. Repeat 3 times and take a moment to feel the difference in your body.

Nourishing Foods

Nourishment ought to bring you sense of pleasure and ease. You can include many leafy greens available now. Include herbs and aromatic spices to add more flavor to your foods. In fact, aromatic kitchen spices are very therapeutic, bringing warmth and supporting the movement of your digestive system, while adding delicious flavor to dishes.

Some lovely spring herbs and spices include; nettles (see my last blog post for a nettles recipe), mint, chrysanthemum flowers, rose buds and petals, lemon balm, gingerroot, dill, basil, thyme, rosemary and turmeric. Simple food grade Chinese herbs in soups and grains are also beneficial. They are jobs tears, Chinese yam (dioscorea/Shan Yao), white peony (Bai Shao), and goji berries.

NettlesFragrant Flowers copy

Include other spring vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus, dandelion greens (boiled, sauteed or in salads), romaine lettuce, chicory, escarole, rhubarb, micro-greens, sprouts and fresh peas.

Rhubarb is our featured vegetable this month with a twist for this period of spring. Rhubarb root (da huang) is used in Chinese herbal medicine to help with constipation.

Rhubarb’s flavor is bitter and its thermal nature is cold, so it helps to clear out heat and purge. It is a hardy perennial garden plant thriving in sunny spots. The stalk of rhubarb, which is what we use in the kitchen, has a long culinary history. Below you will find a simple and satisfying rhubarb dessert, but you can also find lovely salsa recipes and beverage recipes.

Baked Spiced Rhubarb

Vibrant rhubarb stalks are one of the first plants to emerge from the ground in the spring. Rhubarb is a vegetable that is mostly treated like a fruit; it’s a star in pies and cobblers. This warm, comforting, easy -to-make dessert is nice on a windy spring day. The shape and texture of the rhubarb holds up nicely when it’s baked – you will be pleasantly surprised.


Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C)

13- by 9-inch (33 by 23 cm) glass baking dish

  • 1 cup unsweetened white grape juice
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 lbs fresh rhubarb stalks, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1­inch
  • 1/2 cup liquid honey
  • 2 tsp ginger juice

Tip: To make ginger juice, grate ginger

root  and press through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl. Discard fibers.

  1. In baking dish, whisk grape juice with cinnamon. Add rhubarb. Drizzle with honey and ginger juice.
  2. Cover tightly with foil and  bake  in  preheated  oven for 15 minutes or until liquid is bubbling vigorously. Uncover and bake, stirring gently once  or  twice, for 15 minutes or until almost no liquid remains. Serve warm. (To make ahead, let cool completely. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Reheat before serving.)
  3. Spoon into serving bowls. Serve immediately.

Health Tips

Rhubarb’s sour flavor, astringency and cold nature make it an excellent food for clearing out excess internal heat that builds up over the winter. It is also beneficial for people who suffer from constipation. While rhubarb stalks are safe to eat, they do contain some oxalic acid . Eat them sparingly if you suffer from any inflammatory joint conditions, or kidney issues,which can be exacerbated by this compound .Do not eat rhubarb leaves — they contain dangerously high levels of oxalic acid .

Excerpt and Recipe Courtesy of Nutritional Healing with Chinese Medicine by Ellen Goldsmith with Maya Klein© 2017  www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with permission. Available where books are sold.

Text copyright © 2017 Ellen Goldsmith
Recipes copyright © 2017 Maya Klein and Ellen Goldsmith
Cover and text design copyright © 2017 Robert Rose Inc

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Ellen Goldsmith

Ellen Goldsmith

Ellen Goldsmith is a licensed and nationally board certified acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. She has been in the field of Asian medicine for the past 30 years, teaching, speaking and working with thousands of people to give them the resources, skills and tools they seek to improve the quality of their health and lives. Ellen is the author of the well respected book, Nutritional Healing with Chinese Medicine: + 175 Recipes for Optimal Health. She is on faculty at the National University of Natural Medicine’s College of Classical Chinese Medicine in Portland, Oregon.

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