Autumn is traditionally a time for harvest and our attention needs to be on nurturing, building and supporting our organs for the cold change ahead. It is time to clear the heat of summer from your body.
This is traditionally the time of year when we fermented and pickled the abundance of produce we had from spring and summer as winter wasn’t going to be so abundant and giving, as winter is about slowing down.
It used to be that what people ate depended on what could be grown in the region where they lived, and also what could be stored and preserved in colder winter months. Times have changed and pretty much everything is available all year round now.We can get coriander in the height of summer and watermelon and mangoes in winter, if we choose.
According to an article published in Choice Magazine in 2010, in the four-year prior, imports of vegetables to Australia had increased by more than 80%. We’re eating frozen broccoli and cauliflower from China, canned asparagus from Peru and canned corn kernels from Thailand. (This is probably now GMO corn from the States.) Since the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement in 2005, US produce has also become increasingly prevalent. You can buy American grapes, when they’re not in season in Australia, and sometimes in the supermarkets only American citrus fruits are for sale. This is also pretty scary now as GMO foods are so much more prevalent.
But if we want to stay in tune with the seasons then there are a few things to be aware of, these being what foods are growing naturally in a particular season and the ‘object’ or role of these foods. It’s also helpful to know what flavours, emotions and organs will be affected, so you have your best chance at staying physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally healthy right through each season. Wouldn’t that be nice? And yes, it’s possible.
The emphasis in autumn now needs to be on nurturing, building and supporting your organs and blood for the cold change ahead. It is time to clear the heat of summer from your body and get ready to keep warm. (I know this can be confusing. Why do we want to clear heat if we need to keep warm? Heat makes us sweat which cools us down. Think about drinking a hot tea or a spicy dish – you sweat right?)
Season – Autumn
Element – Metal
Environment – Dry
Organs – Lung + Large Intestine
Taste – Pungent
Sense Organ – Nose
Emotions – Grief and Sadness
Fruit and vegetables eaten in season have been found to have a higher phyto (plant) chemical content and contain more nutrients. If you buy produce that is not in season, it is likely to have been grown in artificial conditions, or picked prematurely and transported long distances either within Australia or from overseas. All these factors not only affect the taste, but also the nutrient content.
Research has shown us that vegetables picked and frozen while in season are actually higher in nutrients than if they are transported out of season from overseas. And not only do imported fruit and vegetables affect our health, but also the health of the planet, because of the emission of greenhouse gases and the use of resources to transport them the long distances.
Autumn is upon us. According to the Ancient Calendar it happened this year on Thursday 20th March at 16:57, with the Autumnal Equinox. (On any other day of the year, the Earth’s axis tilts a little away from or towards the Sun. But on the two equinoxes, the Earth’s axis tilts neither away from nor towards the Sun. The equinoxes occur the moment the sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator. This happens in March and September every year.) We’re starting to feel the change to varying degrees now. The mornings are getting cooler and the evenings shorter, (or visa versa if you live in the Northern Hemisphere). I put a pair of wool socks on for the first time this morning, and I’m starting to notice the change in my mood. I feel like staying home more and going to bed earlier. Just as we need to wear different clothes in each season, we also need to eat different foods.
Instinctively, we know that winter is about eating less of the salads and raw foods we ate in summer and more slow -cooked, warming foods like roast veggies, casseroles and stews. Foods now should be coked for a longer time over a lower heat with less water.
The direction of energy in Autumn is ‘down and in’ and the organs most sensitive now are the lungs and the colon. Autumn is about letting go. Looking at both of these organs, that’s just what they do – let go or eliminate. The emotions attached to autumn are grief and sadness, and unresolved emotions can present as physical symptoms such as coughs and gastrointestinal problems.
Autumn is associated with letting go – eliminating – and pungent flavours like ginger, wasabi, horseradish, garlic and coriander are what we want to be eating a lot of. We are encouraged to include a bit more oil now to protect our skin, as it inevitably gets drier as the temperature drops. Dry lips, constipation, dry scalps and coughs are all part of the dryness of Autumn. The condition of your skin reflects the condition of your lungs, so if you’ve got dry skin you’re more likely to have dry lungs. Oily foods like tahini, coconut, different seeds and nuts, avocado and sustainable seafood are all helpful in this regard.
Because of the dryness, we also need foods that will moisten the body; vegetables such as sweet potato, carrots, zucchini, leeks, spinach and fruits like apples, pears, grapes and figs, all of which are in season.
Some fruits and vegetables are in the shops all year round, which makes it hard to know when they are actually in season. Perhaps this is one reason why more and more people are buying fresh produce from their local farmers’ markets. This food is in season, it has not had to travel vast distances and it’s also a great way to help farmers build a sustainable food industry. Plus it tastes o much better, and as I mentioned before much higher in h=nutrients. Better bang for your buck, nutritionally speaking.
The wind at this time of year will affect your lungs, perhaps making breathing more difficult and coughs more frequent. You may feel run down and tired after you’ve been sick and this is due to deficient energy in the lungs in this season. Constipation is also likely, due to the relationship between the lungs and the colon. To strengthen the lungs, use cooking methods such as steaming and boiling. In autumn it is a good idea to eat foods that build your immunity. See below.
Autumn Foods – Garlic and shitake mushroom for their anti-viral and immune boosting properties. And all green, yellow, orange and red veggies, and spelt products. Apples, pears, persimmons, lima beans, spearmint, peppermint, sweet potato, zucchini, carrots, figs, adzuki beans, grapes, olives, spelt, kamut or rye sourdough bread, millet and brown rice, sustainably caught seafood, soups, leeks, vinegar, yoghurt, lemons, limes, grapefruit, cabbage and fresh nuts.
Cook at lower temperatures for longer times, using more water over a lower heat—stews, casseroles, soups and baking, and pull out that slow cooker in Autumn.
Many of us will suffer from dryness in autumn—symptoms of this are a dry cough, dry lips, wrinkles, dandruff, itchiness and constipation. To relieve the symptoms of dryness, we are encouraged to eat foods that nourish and moisten. These are –
– Organic soy products – tempeh, miso, soymilk and tofu
– Vegetables – mushrooms, spinach and locally sourced sea vegetables
– Fruit – apples, pears and persimmons
– Nuts – almonds, peanuts and pine nuts
– Grains – barley and millet
– Seeds like sesame and hemp seeds
– Oils – nuts, seeds, tahini, coconut, avocado, olives and all types of unrefined cooking oil
For a persistent cough, which is worse at night that you can’t get
rid of, makes you thirsty and is often accompanied by a sore
throat, try foods that nourish and moisten.
When you are sick, fresh ginger helps rid your body of illness through sweat, and when you are well, dried ginger builds immunity.
To build Immunity, oranges, pears, peaches, organic soy products, oysters and clams, green beans, royal jelly (check for allergy), shiitake mushrooms
For Phlegm, yellow or green (hot) phlegm: use cooling pungents, such as peppermint, chamomile, daikon, radish, watercress and locally sourced sea vegetables.
– White (cool) phlegm: use warming pungents, such as garlic,
onion, horseradish and ginger
Foods that build up blood levels and nourish your blood in time for winter are figs, pears, pumpkins, parsnips, potato and beetroot
– Spicy food should be avoided if you are getting sick often, as it reduces immunity through inducing sweat and causing dryness
– Cold drinks and ice, melons, salads and raw foods, juices, raw
onions, dried spices and chilies
– Quick cooking methods such as stir-frying
The seasons are a cycle of death and rebirth and we nourish and support ourselves by living in accordance with them. What we consume may not fix all of our problems, but being aware of each changing season and eating the foods appropriate to it cannot help but bring us increasing levels of contentment and wellbeing.
So get those soup pots out and your favourite Autumn recipes. I will, naturally, be posting daily recipes and tips on my Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram to guide yout through this yet another beautiful season.
In Love and Wellbeing,