Most times, I prefer my salad dressings either sweet or savory. You know… berry vinegarette, honey mustard, ranch, blue cheese… something along those lines. But, for some reason, as spring begins to approach, I start craving foods that are on the sour or bitter side, and that means that my salad dressings move away from sweet and savory and more towards a tart or sour flavor.
Why this is, I’m not certain. Maybe it’s intuition. You know, that little part of you where your body knows what it needs and sends you signals (cravings) so you’ll give it what it wants. After a long cold winter where my diet contains more cooked, heavy food, it seems that as spring approaches, my body begins to tell me to move in a different direction… more towards fresh, raw, and bitter/sour foods that are good for the gut.
Today, I’d like to share a recipe I recently created called “White Pine Lemon Vinaigrette.” This dressing is a perfect fit for a light side salad on a beautiful spring day. It’s a little on the tart side, but it has a light lemony flavor that’s pleasing to the tongue. Now, not only does it have a refreshing taste, but it supports your digestive and immune health too! Flavor and health? What else could you ask for in a vinaigrette?
Inspiration On A Winter Foraging Adventure
A few weeks ago, I did some winter foraging with my friend Samantha (Sam) from Cherokee Cove. Foraging for herbs (also known as wildcrafting) is an area I’m working on doing better in this year. I do alright identifying herbs during the spring and summer months, but winter is a whole different story. Thankfully, my friend Sam has been foraging longer than I have, and she offered to take me out and show me how to identify some winter things I could collect and use in food or remedies.
After our freezing adventure, we were sitting around talking about learning and using herbs, and I mentioned wanting to get more in the habit of incorporating herbs in my food recipes in order to benefit from their nutritional properties as well as their therapeutic properties.
Now, Sam and her husband Stu used to own a very successful restaurant in Boone, NC before becoming full-time missionaries and opening Cherokee Cove so they have a lot of experience cooking GOOD, healthy foods. Anyway, Sam gave me the idea of using the white pine we’d collected to make a pine infused vinegarette for salads during the year. That got my wheels spinning. I knew spring was coming up, and I knew more salads would be added to my weekly meal plan so I figured I’d give it a go and see what I could come up with.
The result was my White Pine Lemon Vinaigrette.
Herbs + Food = A Perfect Combination
If you get my Letters to Natural Mamas emails, then you’ve heard me talking about my herbalist friend, Rosalee de la Forêt’s new book, The Alchemy of Herbs, recently. You may have also heard me mention herbalist Holly Bellebuono’s book, The Healing Kitchen, and Kami McBride’s book, The Herbal Kitchen, in some past blog posts before.
Now, all of these books are great, and they all have one thing in common. They teach and inspire you to bring herbs into your kitchen and to use them in the foods you make in order for your foods to me more nourishing and healing to your body.
Learning to use herbs in my food is something I’ve always been interested in, for as long as I can remember anyway, but this is definitley an area that I haven’t felt very confident in. But, thanks to Rosalee, Holly, Kami, and my good friend Sam… I’m slowly learning, and my confidence is growing.
Health Benefits of White Pine Lemon Vinaigrette
This vinaigrette will really make your spring salads pop with flavor and health as it specifically benefits your digestive and immune health.
Thanks to the apple cider vinegar, you can absorb more of the minerals found in the foods you eat (Mercola, 2009), and the lemon zest, lemon essential oil, and lemon balm all work as a carminatives to soothe the walls of the GI tract by easing cramping, reducing gut inflammation, and removing gas (Intermediate Herbal Course: Unit 3 – Herbal Academy, n.d.). Lemon balm is also a relaxing nervine and can really help the stomach and nervous system feel settled so you can better digest your food. White pine needles also contain volatile oils that can help relax the GI tract, but they’re better know for their vitamin c content. Vitamin c is an antioxidant that is responsible for over 300 metabolic functions in the body… one of which is enhancing immunity (Balch, 2006).
White Pine Lemon Vinaigrette
- 1/2 cup avocado oil
- 1/2 organic apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup organic dried lemon balm
- 1/4 cup freshly chopped white pine needles (no stems)
- 1 teaspoon of organic lemon zest – OR – 24 drops (1% dilution) of lemon essential oil (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- honey to taste (optional)
- Start by combining your avocado oil with your lemon balm and lemon zest (or lemon essential oil if using for flavoring). Mix well.
- Next, add your vinegar and chopped white pine needles. Blend all of this well with an immersion blender.
- Finally, add salt and pepper to taste (as well as honey if you want your vinaigrette a little sweet). Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator and use within 3 months.
- Suggested serving size: 2-4 teaspoons
The longer you let this vinaigrette sit, the more the flavors of the herbs will infuse into it. If you try to use it right away, it will have a slight lemony flavor, but if you let it sit in your refrigerator for 2 weeks before using it, it will have a brighter lemon flavor with a hint of pine. Delicious!
If you are opposed to using essential oils in your food, please don’t do it. Just use the lemon zest! It will be just as good. I’ve taken an aromatherapy course from a respectable aromatherapist, and I’ve looked at many respectable essential oil sources. It seems that the generalall agree that it is okay to use a high-quality essential oil in your food as a flavoring only, that a 1% dilution is the max amount to be used, that it must be thoroughly combined with an appropriate carrier oil (in this case, the avocado oil), and that no more than 1-2 drops (equal to 2-4 teaspoons of vinegarette) should be consumed daily (Nesmith, 2014 and “Safety Guidelines,” n.d.).
Be sure to print the recipe below and pin it to your foodie boards on Pinterest. And, if you give it a try, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!
- Balch, P. A. (2006). Prescription for nutritional healing: a practical A-to-Z reference to drug-free remedies using vitamins, minerals, herbs & food supplements. London: Penguin.
- Intermediate Herbal Course: Unit 3 – Herbal Academy. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2017, from https://theherbalacademy.com/course/intermediate-herbal-course/
- Mercola, J. (2009, June 02). What the Research Really Says About Apple Cider Vinegar. Retrieved February 27, 2017, from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/06/02/apple-cider-vinegar-hype.aspx
- Nesmith, R. (2014, January 14). Can Essential Oils Be Ingested? Retrieved February 27, 2017, from https://www.planttherapy.com/blog/2014/01/14/can-essential-oils-be-ingested/
- Safety Guidelines. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2017, from http://tisserandinstitute.org/safety/safety-guidelines/