In nature spring is a time of new life and regeneration, and similarly for us it is a time to wake up and throw off the lethargy of winter.

Drinks for spring need to be able to renew our energy and vitality and at the same time detoxify the body of toxins accumulated from the sedentary habits of the winter months. Certain foods and herbs such as watercress, dandelion leaves, young nettle tops, cabbage and leeks have the remarkable ability to do just this. 

WELSH DANDELION BEER 

This traditional Welsh recipe makes a beer that is excellent for quenching thirst and is not very alcoholic. The combination of the bitterness of dandelions and the pungency of ginger is perfect for our purposes in spring. The bitter taste stimulates the function of the liver, the great detoxifying organ of the body, while the ginger’s pungency has the effect of revitalising the whole system, improving digestion and absorption while ensuring the removal of toxins and wastes.

225g young dandelions plants
4.5l water
15g root ginger, sliced and bruised
1 lemon, zest and juice of
450g demerara sugar
25g cream of tartar
7g  dried brewer’s yeast

Dig up complete young dandelion plants, wash them well and remove all the fibrous roots, leaving the main tap root. Place in a large saucepan with the water, ginger and lemon rind. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and pour on to the sugar and cream of tartar in a fermentation bucket. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Start the yeast following the instructions and add it to the lukewarm water must with the lemon juice. Cover and leave in a warm room for 3 days. Strain into screw- top bottles. It will be ready to drink after 1 week and, if stored in a cool place, will keep for about a month. 

TUSCAN SPRING TONIC 

1 serving 

Ever since the 17th century celery has been popular with the Italians. In fact, the old French name for celery is sceleri d’Itlai. Wonderfully aromatic, celery blends well with the rather similar taste parsley, the pungency of garlic and the sweetness of carrot to make this thick, highly nutritious vegetable juice. Perfect as a spring cleanser, celery, parsley and carrots all have diuretic properties, aiding the elimination of toxins via the kidneys, while garlic invigorates the whole body, disinfecting and cleansing as it goes. 

250ml carrot juice
125ml celery juice
1 garlic clove
1 handful of fresh parsley 
parsley sprigs to garnish 

Blend all the ingredients together in a liquidizer or food processor. Serve with a garnish of parsley. 

NETTLE & CABBAGE SOUP 

The abundant chlorophyll in nettles gives this soup a wonderfully vibrant colour that makes you feel healthy just looking at it. Bursting with vitamins, minerals and trace elements, it nourishes and cleanses at the same time. An antiseptic, a diuretic, a tonic of the liver and a laxative, cabbage makes an ideal spring tonic, explaining its ancient reputation for purifying the blood. Similarly, nettles stimulate the liver and kidneys, cleansing the body of toxins and wastes, and restores vitality to the system. 

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 leeks, washed and sliced 
100g cabbage, chopped
1.2 l vegetable or chicken stock
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 handfuls nettle tops, washed
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley or coriander
ground nutmeg, to garnish 

Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and cook till soft. Add the leeks and cabbage, cover and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes. Add the stock and seasoning. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes, adding the nettles for the last few minutes. Remove from the heat and blend. Add the parsley or coriander before serving and garnish with nutmeg.

Anne McIntyre runs a one year course in experiential herbalism at Trill Farm, using the herb gardens and hedgerows to teach the practical side of using herbs.