Seasonal Harmony – Early Summer and You

Early Summer and You

by Ellasara Kling

“The wise nourish life by flowing with the four seasons and adapting to cold or heat, by harmonizing joy and anger in a tranquil dwelling, by balancing yin and yang, and what is hard and soft.” -The Neijing

It is a time-honored understanding in Chinese medicine theory, that “Prevention is the best cure.”  Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to do those things that we can do in our daily lives to increase and preserve our well-being. Often this includes those small things that in the short run may seem inconsequential, but in the long run make a big difference. This clearly includes paying attention to the seasons and what we need to do to respond appropriately to each season. Let’s look briefly at the season we are in now.

Following the sproutings of Spring, Summer’s energy is now flowing outward and upward. An abundance of plants are in bloom, the world is visually beautiful. Early Summer has begun and with it is that delightful summer warmth, longer days, blue skies, plants in bloom and an expression by Nature of exuberance! Easy to understand why Joy would be the emotion for Heart Season. This is the Joy that emerges from within as a response to Life. (see the chart below for more Early Summer relationships according to the principles of Five Element Theory.)

The heart and spirit are affected by the fire element of this season making it an ideal time to cultivate calm/peacefulness, work on increasing the immune system (wei qi). In TCM, the Heart and Small Intestine functions are paired. When the Heart function is in balance, it can work easily in conjunction with the functioning of the Small Intestine. Add more fluids to your diet, enjoy the outdoors, add pungent flavors to your foods, and refrain from eating greasy foods, too much meat, and also iced foods.

Every season has its unique and highly complex expression and requires us to relate differently to ourselves in each one as a form of cooperation with Nature. Simultaneously, we need to understand our individual needs and how to combine one with the other. Heat and dampness are two environmental factors of summer. Some of each is necessary environmentally and internally; however, too much dampness in either is unpleasant. We may not be able to control the external weather, but we may be able to control the creation of internal dampness by going lightly on the ice cream, greasy foods, and sweets, especially if we are prone to a damp condition. Even though it can become quite hot externally, drinking very cold liquids should be avoided. They are a shock to the system and counter-productive. Instead, try a flower tea such as chrysanthemum tea which naturally cools us internally. Slightly diluted fresh cucumber juice with lemon, strawberry juice or watermelon juice are all naturally cooling and delicious as is a cup of green tea.

Always listen to your body, use your self-awareness to understand what it is telling you and follow your intuition.


Some Foods That Are Harmonious With Early Summer Include: apricot, beet, bitter melon, black coffee, broccoli, celery, coffee, cucumber, daikon radish, dark unsweetened chocolate, escarole, ginger, job’s tears (a/k/a Chinese barley), lettuces such as boston, chicory, endive & romaine, lemon balm, loquat, lotus root, lotus seed, mulberries, mung bean, okra, peach, peppermint, persimmons, radishes, red lentils, red peppers, red plums, rhubarb, soy beans, spinach, strawberry, summer squashes, tamarind, teas, tomato, water chestnuts, watermelon, Chinese yam, zucchini, and others.

 

Health Topic:  Astragalus (a/k/a Huang Qi; Milk Vetch) is commonly used in TCM herbal formulas and in Chinese herbal home cooking. But, what is it? The part of the plant that is commonly used is the root which is cut into slices that look something like a tongue depressor. The plant itself is a legume and Astragulas is the name for a genus of about 3,000 different species. The ones used in TCM are from specific plants that are native to China, Korea, Mongolia. Considered an adaptogen, in TCM formulas it is combined with other herbs and is used to treat numerous conditions. Over the past few years, it has become valued in western herbal medicine and research for its apparent immune boosting abilities and positive effects on some common conditions (for more specific information visit the University of Maryland Medical Center website: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/astragalus-000223.htm; also see The Complete Encyclopedia of Natural Healing: A Comprehensive A-Z Listing of Common and Chronic Illnesses and Their Proven Natural Treatments by Gary Null, Ph.D. ). There are many home herbal recipes that use astragalus root. These recipes are usually simmered for a long time as in soups. The root has a sweet and mild-licorice taste.

RECIPES:

Watermelon Salad

 

Watermelon cut in bite size pieces and use some of the pith/rind
Cucumber quartered lengthwise, seeded, sliced thin
Lemon juice and salt
Fresh mint leaves chopped, an appreciable amount
Mix the cucumbers with the lemon juice and salt. Let sit for a bit, like while you cut up watermelon and mint. Toss with melon and mint.

Veggie Crepes

Crepes – Ingredients (the batter for the crepes is made ahead of time)

½ cup flour (rice or wheat)
3 eggs
1/8 m  tsp salt
2 tbsp water
1 tsp walnut oil
4 tbsp seltzer
2 tbsp oil for cooking crepes

Crepes Directions

  • Combine the eggs, salt, oil and water in a bowl and blend together
  • Add the flour and blend until well-combined and smooth
  • Cover and refrigerate for several hours best (1-2 hours ok)
  • When ready to use- lightly coat a 6” fry pan with oil and heat the fry so that it is very hot. Use an oil that can handle high heat and a thick bottomed pan that can also handle heat.
  • While the oil is heating, slowly stir the seltzer into the batter so that it is well combined
  • When the pan is ready, put about 2-3 tbsp of batter into the center of the pan and rotate it around evenly, coating the bottom of the pan
  • This cooks very quickly 20-30 seconds for the bottom to begin to brown.
  • With a spatula, lift an edge of the crepe and with your fingers (be careful not to touch the hot pan with your hand) turn the crepe over. Cook another 10-20 seconds on the second side.  Slide onto a serving dish.
  • Continue until you have used all the batter. Add additional oil as needed.  Makes several crepes.

 

Filling ideas:  make ahead before you cook the crepes

Ingredients:
2 tbsp walnut or grape seed oil

2 tbsp water or veggie stock (if necessary)
2 green onions – whites finely sliced rings
1 stalk celery  – fine diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

finely sliced mushrooms
½ cup water chestnuts, diced fine
1 TB minced ginger,

1 garlic clove, minced

(You can vary the vegetables in this to your taste – just remember to cut them so that they can be a filling for a crepe and colorful)

Directions
Heat oil in a wok or heavy skillet.  Add the garlic, ginger, and green onions and sauté until the garlic and ginger begin to sweat.  Add the red pepper, water chestnuts, and celery, mushrooms (or other veggies) and sauté until they just begin to wilt. Add water or veggie stock if necessary

Spoon some filling into the center of each crepe and fold the sides over forming a packet.

 

Mung Bean Soup.

This soup is very cooling on a hot day and makes a great breakfast. Mung beans also quench thirst.

.½ cup Mung beans,

1-1/2 cups water

2 TB diced dried tangerine peel

1 TB brown sugar

I like it cooked till mushy – but that is not necessary, you can stop sooner. . .after the little green beans have broken open.

 

Tea Eggs

Eggs are considered in Chinese medicine to be very important for health, good skin, longevity – the whites are sweet with a cooling effect and the yolks are sweet and slightly warming, so when taken together, they are considered neutral. They are believed in Chinese medicine to have many positive effects on healthy organ function.

Ingredients

12 eggs

water to fully cover by at least one inch

¼ cup black tea leaves or gunpowder green tea, or a smoky oolong tea

3 star anise

2 cinnamon sticks

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp five spice powder

Place room temperature eggs in a sauce pan and cover with water and over high heat bring to a boil. cook uncovered.

Reduce heat somewhat and cook about 5 minutes

Let stand until cool

Tap eggs lightly with the back of a spoon so that you crack the shells but they are not coming off.  You want a “crackled shell” look.

Add all the other ingredients to the saucepan, cover saucepan, and over low heat simmer for about 1 hour.

Let stand in water until it is cool, drain and peel.

Your eggs will have a “crackle” pattern and a delightful flavor.

 

Dessert Coconut Congee


Ingredients

1 14 oz can first pressed coconut milk

14 oz cold water

¼ cup plus 1 TB sweet white rice

3 pieces star anise

1 large stick cinnamon

1 TB rock sugar

1 TB honey

1/8 tsp salt

8 red dates

2 TB goji berries

4 kuamquats sliced very thin

 

Directions

Put the coconut milk, water, rice, anise, cinnamon in a 3 qt sauce pan.  .bring to a boil and add the salt, sugar and honey and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer the rice stirring occasionally and do not allow to boil.  When it is becoming creamy, add the dates and berries and continue to simmer until it is reduced to about 2 cups and is very creamy.  Remove the anise and cinnamon bark.  Makes 4 ½ cup servings each decorated with one very thinly sliced kuamquat.  Can be served hot or room temperature.  This is good the first day, but refrigerate and reheat the next day it is even better.

 

 

 

Ellasara Kling

Following the threads of her personal tapestry, Ellasara, a long-time student of Master Nan Lu, weaves her life around the exploration and sharing of self-healing through a variety of modalities, primarily focusing on food, common herbal plants, Qigong Meridian Therapy and Qigong for Women’s Health. For comments, questions, consultations, ellasara00@gmail.com

 

 

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