We are well in the midst of autumn, (in the southern hemisphere) and being a tropical climate dweller, I can’t wait for the cooler weather to finally hit! As we move through the year, it is a simple medicine to eat according to the seasons, to nourish our bodies, help it adapt to the weather, and keep it strong and healthy. If we are eating locally and seasonally, we are usually by happy coincidence, eating the freshest and cleanest foods available, with a higher nutritional pay off, and if it is also organic produce, then this is even better!
Depending on where you live, these are the typical foods available for the season:
- Apples, blackberries, cranberries, dates, figs, grapes, Mandarin orange, melons, pears, persimmons, plums, pomegranates, quince, rosehips.
- Bell pepper, broccoli, burdock, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, corn, cucumber, daikon, eggplant, ginger, horseradish, artichoke, leeks, okra, onion, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkin, shallot, spinach, squash, sweet potato, tomato, turnip, yam.
- Grains; amaranth, barley, buckwheat, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, rye.
- Legumes; Adzuki, black beans, blackeye beans, chickpeas/garbanzo, kidney, lentil, lima, navy, soy.
- Nuts; almonds, Brazil, cashew, macadamia, pecan, pistachio, walnut.
- Seeds; flax, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower.
Autumn is all about harvesting and conserving food and energy for the coming winter. We start to crave, and cook more warming meals, to encourage our physical energy to withdraw into our bodies, conserving heat and strength.
It is quite a dramatic change from summer, and the time when we are more susceptible to getting run down and sick, if we don’t take care. In traditional Chinese medicine, autumn is seen as the season that is most yang in energy. This is observed by the way nature has withdrawn into itself; leaves fall from trees, as the tree’s life force settles into the tree roots for winter; flowers and other plants stop producing shoots and wither; animals plan for hibernation; all natures energy prepares to settle within the earth. This oppressive yang energy has an effect on us too, we typically feel more withdrawn, introspective, and start to spend more time inside the home.
Busting out the slow-cooker and pressure cooker is what autumn is all about! The longer foods are cooked for, the better they are for warming us, and conserving energy at our core, and ideal during this season. Nature has provided us with the perfect yang foods to help this along; root vegetables, squash, nuts, seeds and whole grains (short grain brown rice is especially emphasised).
Soups, stews, broths, and porridge will be the kind of meals you may want to start introducing to your diet around now, full of the seasonal goodness listed above. If this seems overwhelming, but you want to try it, start with making one stew and one soup a week, and build from there as we glide towards winter. Note if there is any change to your energy, or moods during this self experiment. How does your skin look? How does your digestion feel? Are there any changes to your sleep patterns?
Fermented foods, while wonderful to eat all year round, add extra immune protection for the colder months. Pickles and other preserves are traditionally consumed around this time. Make sure if buying commercially, that they are un-pasteurised, as pasteurisation kills the health giving bacteria. Yogurt, tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, and raw honey, are a few of the foods that contain healthy bacteria. It is also really fun to make your own preserves, I recommend it!
Spices and herbs such as cinnamon, cumin, fenugreek, ginger and turmeric are great dietary additions for bringing warmth and immune support to the body.
If you are feeling particularly sluggish, and if your skin is cracked and dry, you may also want to cook the fruit you are eating, instead of eating it raw. This will add extra warmth and hydration to your body. To do this, chop whatever seasonal fruit you’re going to use into medium-sized chunks, place them in a small saucepan with a few tablespoons of water. Simmer them until they have broken down their structure. I like to add a few tablespoons of tahini paste to this, and maybe a spoonful of rice syrup for sweetness. You may like to use almond paste, or honey, maple syrup, coconut syrup, even coconut oil if you wish. Make it however is yummy to you!
Balance is always key to health, so even though we are eating more cooked foods during this season, please don’t neglect a good raw salad here and there. Raw foods are full of vitamins and enzymes, so we still need these present in our diet. Keep an ear on your ‘food intuition’, and let it guide you as to the ratio of raw to cooked food you’re needing. And let the weather guide you too, if it’s not quite that cool in temperature yet, you may not need too much of these warming foods. However, if it feels like winter is truly on your doorstep, indulge in as much pumpkin soup as you please! Yay!
Oh and don’t forget the hot chocolate, I can prove its healthy and warming too, promise!
Sami Lou xx
Photo by Philluppus ❤