Just when you think summer is coming to an end, it coughs and splutters and the Melbourne skies throw out mid 30 degree weather like we are having this week. Almost as if to say, I know you will miss me, so here's one last hurrah! How do you feel at the end of Summer? Do you look forward to autumn or live in denial that the weather is changing? What about foods...are you ready to jump into hearty soups and stews, or are you refusing to give up the salads?
If we watch nature, we get all our answers. As the weather starts to cool, look at what foods are in season. That tells us what we should be nourishing our bodies with. Our bodies inherently know what is good for them, what they need. If we listen. According to Chinese medicine, at this time of year we need to keep our stomachs warm to nourish and support both the stomach and the spleen. To be eating warming and lightly cooked foods, and let go of the cold and raw foods.
Our stomachs are thought of as the "middle burner" and we need to keep the fire in there going
to keep digestion strong and to prevent strain on other organs. Eating cold and raw foods takes excess energy to digest. Instead eat warm, or warming foods to pamper your spleen and stomach. The Spleen loves cooked foods as they are easy to digest. Although the raw food advocates argue that when eating a raw diet you are getting all the nutrients from the food as they are in their natural state, if your body isn't digesting food properly then you are already missing out on those nutrients anyway. So raw foods are great in summer if your body can digest them but as the weather cools, look to reducing the amount of raw foods and increasing the cooking times of your foods further as we head towards winter. Think of it this way, if your digestive system is the fire, adding cold raw foods to it chill that fire and slowly put it out.
In our last post Amanda Adey was chatting with us about the Earth Element and how the Late Summer season governs our spleen and stomach,
explaining the effects on our bodies if these are out of balance. And on Sunday I attended Amanda's workshop in Mt Martha all relating to the Earth Element. Each season relates to one of the five elements, and the Earth Element acts as a central axis connecting all the other elements together. Each element is governed by various emotions, themes and parts of the body. Keep an eye out for the rest of the elements throughout the year that we will be doing with Amanda, and if you have an interest in this, consider coming along to the workshops Amanda has put together relating to the five elements. It was truly a beautiful day, full of learning so much more about the Earth Element, self balance techniques to allow a shift in energy within ourselves and about being more aware of how the seasons affect us.
I am not at all trained in Chinese medicine. I do have a huge interest in it and as with all the posts that I write I do an awful lot of research. I do know that Chinese dietary theory is in depth and you need a lot of knowledge and training, more than what I could gather for a post, so I turn to the experts. Once I created this recipe, I ran it past Dr Abbie Cloherty from the Zhong Centre, to make sure I had the right ingredients. As a patient of Dr Abbie's, I was told recently to stop eating salads, if I really wanted a salad I could have a warm salad. Happy days I thought! Roast vegetable salad! Uh, nope. As Dr Abbie explained, roasting the vegetables is like popping them in the sun, it's drying and the wrong kind of warmth. Steamed or sautéed yes, roasted no (insert mini tantrum) I was happy to say though, that my research for this was nearly there! Abbie added in barley for to absorb damp from the body and pumpkin (or other starchy vegetables) is to hydrate the body in the late evening.
So please, if Chinese medicine interests you and you want to learn more, book in and see a practitioner and always make sure that you can trust the source of the information you are gathering.
All of the ingredients in this salad are warming foods.
Recipe to serve 2 as a side dish
1 bunch watercress
1 cup pumpkin
1 cup cooked barley (if gluten free replace with buckwheat)
6 radish - quartered
6 mushrooms roughly chopped - button mushrooms or shiitake
A handful walnuts
A handful of alfalfa
1 clove garlic - finely chopped
1 tsp horseradish
Sauté the pumpkin until soft, add the mushrooms to sauté until the water is gone
Add the radish and walnuts, stirring until the radish is starting to colour
Add the horseradish and garlic
Lastly remove the pan from the heat and add the watercress and barley, tossing until the watercress starts to wilt
Toss through a little oil along with lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper. Toss through the alfalfa