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Letter from Publisher

Headshot of publisher Peggy Malecki

Peggy Malecki

March is National Nutrition Month, and we’ve devoted this issue of Natural Awakenings Chicago to exploring how our food choices, especially ones rich in plant-based foods, aid in reducing inflammation, curbing debilitating illnesses and autoimmune conditions, and contribute to overall wellness. In our main feature, “Veggies For the Win,” Kiki Powers gives us five great reasons to choose a lifestyle based on plant-based foods.

We also look at simple dietary changes to support kidney health, examine fasting and autoimmune disease, talk with local chef William Beau Blackburn about his passion for preparing anti-inflammatory foods for Chicago area residents, and interview Terry Wahls about ways to manage autoimmune conditions through lifestyle changes. We also feature some great recipes for your weeknight cooking.

About this time of year, I start longing for a summer salad. I aim to eat as locally, organically and sustainably as possible, so I try to avoid winter salads with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and other produce that have traveled from a farm hundreds or thousands of miles to my salad bowl. Yet with all the spring garden catalogs still pouring into my mailbox, with their gorgeous images of heirloom tomatoes in all colors and dozens of varieties of peppers, cucumbers and kohlrabi, I’m dreaming of summer produce.

It’s encouraging that in the Chicago area we’re fortunate to have some local organic farmers growing fresh lettuces, greens and microgreens year-round in greenhouses and hoop houses. You can purchase their products at area co-ops, indoor farmers markets, CSAs, online and even direct from their farms. Illinois-grown hydroponic tomatoes and lettuces can also be found in some stores, and some local farmers are experimenting with indoor and/or hoop house-grown crops of cukes, tomatoes and other veggies that until recently were typically considered summer-only crops in our latitude.

All that said, while summer salads are classic, what remains in storage or at the markets from our fall crops can form the base to a hearty late winter salad. Squashes, cabbage, dried beans and root crops (think carrots, beets, potatoes, rutabaga, etc.) are perfect when shredded or diced and tossed with herbs and a nice vinaigrette or creamy dressing. Some benefit from a quick blanching, steaming or oven roast to cook and add sweetness. Toss with a handful of torn winter kale or local romaine, add some crunch, fruit or a cheese (regular or plant-based), maybe a handful of corona or other cooked beans and call it dinner. You may also want to search for “warm salad” or “cooked salad” recipes for chilly early spring evenings and lunch leftovers.

It’ll be a while until spring is in full bloom, so what better time to visit one of the many indoor gardens in our area? Sheryl DeVore takes us on a tour of some of the incredible garden conservatories in the greater Chicago and Milwaukee area. If local craft beer is more to your interest, be sure to check out Bob Benenson’s tour of four area breweries that are bringing change to the industry. And for anyone that’s dreamed of starting a food business from their kitchen, Lisa Kivirist and John Ivanko update us on cottage food regulations in Illinois, as well as preview the Home-based Food Entrepreneur Virtual National Conference, coming up April 10-13.

As always, I encourage you to step outside every day this March and explore the early spring. Listen for the cardinals, goldfinches, redwing blackbirds and others singing their spring songs. Look for early signs of emerging leaves, bulbs and native ephemeral flowers making their first appearances. Watch for the full moon, feel the cold rain, smell the earth and enjoy all that 31 days of March have to offer.

Happy Equinox and Happy Spring!