amy chaplin

celebrating the art of eating well

Lemon spring tonic

POSTED ON April 17, 2015


While rummaging recently in a box of old notebooks, I found a recipe for green spring tonic. It was something that my friend Gloria and I used to teach in our whole food cooking classes back in the day. I also had a client who would request it the moment wild dandelion appeared at the farmer’s market. Since spring has finally sprung here in New York, it’s just the thing I feel like sipping on.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine spring is the season to attend to the liver and gallbladder. Bitter tasting greens like those in this tonic help flush out toxins that have accumulated as a result of the heavy, warming foods of winter.

Dandelion is a powerful cleansing plant that stimulates liver function by increasing the production of bile which helps carry away waste and breakdown fats during digestion. It also cleanses the gallbladder, boosts immunity and helps reduce appetite and inflammation. High in powerful antioxidants like beta-carotene and vitamin C, watercress is a pungent herb that clears toxins and purifies the blood.

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These bitter greens are very cooling. So to warm the tonic, reduce its bitterness and aid digestion, I cooked it lightly. I will warn you it is still very bitter and if you prefer you can replace some of the greens for kale or collards; it still ends up being a lovely, healing green drink. What I like most about it is that you can store it in a jar in the fridge and sip on it cool or at room temperature for a few days. You can enjoy this tonic as is, with broth and greens together or blend it and eat it like a pureed soup. In the photo above I strained it after blending to enjoy as a drink rather than a soup.

With plants shooting up from the ground and the blossom bursting from trees it’s not surprising to think that the ascending energy has an effect on us physically. We are having our own internal spring, whether we are cleansing or not, as we naturally eat less, crave lighter foods and hopefully start eating what is locally available in the way of wild greens. These greens are the perfect medicine for preparing for the warmer seasons ahead.

Happy spring!

Amy x


Photos by Stephen Johnson

Lemon spring tonic

Feel free to use any greens that you have available. If ramps (wild leeks) grow in your area use 4 or 5 in place of the spring onion. You can also use regular leeks or scallions. If you plan on eating this without blending it, use about 1 teaspoon umeboshi paste in place of the plum and whisk it into the tonic to disperse.

Makes about 3 ½ cups, strained

1 medium bulb spring onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

4 cups filtered water

2 cups chopped dandelion greens

2 cups chopped watercress

Pinch sea salt

1 umeboshi plum, optional

¼ cup lemon juice

Lemon slices to serve, optional

Add spring onion, garlic and water to a medium pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover pot, reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove lid and add dandelion and watercress, bring up to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes more or until bright green and tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly then blend until smooth in an upright blender. Add umeboshi and lemon and blend again. Drink as is or strain through a fine mesh drainer or nut milk bag, squeezing out as much liquid as possible, compost any pulp that remains. Pour into small bowls or cups, add a lemon slice and drink immediately or store in the fridge for up to 3 days.



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  • I love dandelion! I used to pick it up with my mum in this season ^_^

  • This sounds full on. will I be brave enough to try it? I sure hope so. I’ll keep you posted 😉
    Thanks for sharign your abundant knowledge.

  • Ana says:

    Sounds amazing, but I can’t get dandelion greens. Is there something I can replace it with?

    • Amy Chaplin says:

      Hi Ana,

      Yes you can replace with any other green like I mention in the post.
      Try Kale or collards. Dandelion is more medicinal for the liver but all greens are good.



  • Ana says:

    Thank you Amy.

  • Alicia says:


    Incredible seasonal, nutritional, cleansing, recipe. I appreciate any “Tonic” recipes! They are not as easy to come across, and also not as widely talked of.

    I embrace your knowledge and insight shared on this blog – a true gift to the world. I am a new, mega fan.

    Thank you!

  • Gaëlle says:

    Hi Amy, I do not find fresh Dandelion here in Marocco, car I use the dry one instead (and add other fresh greens as kale as you mentioned)? Thank you.

    • Amy Chaplin says:

      Hi Gaelle,

      Thanks for reading. You could use dried dandelion…I’m guessing you mean the root, you might need to strain it out of the broth but could make a tea with it first then cook the other greens etc in it. Yum!

      Let me know how it goes!


  • Claire says:

    Dear Amy
    I made this tonic and I just love its taste. I really feel that is something my body just need at the moment. I wonder how much per day I can drink of it. I also drink green smoothie at the moment with wild spinach, grapefruit, apple, cucumber and a little Spirulina. So I don’t want to get too much of green information for my body.
    I thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.
    Lovely greetings

  • Elsa says:

    Made this yesterday! Thanks so much! It didn’t even taste too bad 😉

  • thefolia says:

    My mother would always offer us the water after she boiled dandelions…it was only me that took her up on that offer. I guess I was interested in being healthy even at a young age. Happy sipping.

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