Foods For Late Summer
by Ellsara Kling“When internal energies are able to circulate smoothly and freely, and the energy of the mind is not scattered, but is focused and concentrated, illness and disease can be avoided.” The Neijing
The above statement from the NeiJing informs us that we are an energetic system that is in constant flow and that it is only disturbances in the flow that cause the condition for dis-ease (illness). The second part of the statement refers to our state of mind, which in modern terms might be characterized as “presence.” This statement occurs early on in the Neijing and represents a fundamental axiom from which many theories of creating/maintaining health and forms of treatment flow. A rudimentary broad stroke description of the treatment basis in Chinese medicine is to restore energy flow, harmonize and balance energy throughout the system and/or to increase or decrease energy. Ideal people, living in ideal conditions would have no impediment to a clear flow of balanced energy within their being and with their connection to the greater whole. For most of us, these are not our circumstances. We mostly live in urban settings, with urban pressures, 21st Century lifestyles, and 21st Century paradigms which give no heed to “going with the flow”, cultivating energy, following the seasons, and so on.
Nonetheless, it is characteristic of who we are to always seek harmony and balance which are often achieved through ongoing “course corrections” of a little more of this, a little less of that and perhaps, an infusion of something totally different. It is here that opening our awareness of seasonal flow and the natural relationships within each season can greatly serve us towards achieving our goals for health, harmony and balance. Part of seasonal awareness is eating with an understanding of what is natural to the season and how to combine that with who and where we are individually in order to assist ourselves in achieving a state where energy is flowing freely throughout our system. From the viewpoint of Five Element Theory, food is energy. Ultimately, we are always using energy in one form or another to create harmony and balance whether that is cultivating energy through our practice, the herbs or food we eat, and so on. Viewed in this manner, all food is “medicine” and “energy is the only medicine.”
Following another axiom of Chinese medicine, “prevention is the best cure”, using seasonal foods, following the Seasons, our energy practices are daily ways we can create “prevention”.
According to Five Element Theory, this season is Late Summer which starts around mid-August and lasts until the Autumn Equinox in September. It is related to the Earth element, the color yellow and the Spleen/Stomach organ/meridian systems. It is nourished by the sweet and/or bland flavor and its environment is damp. Internal dampness is one of the conditions that can be deleterious to one’s health in the same way as too much dampness in the external environment can be an impediment. The flavors of Early Summer, bitter and the season following, Fall, which is pungent are both drying in nature and can be used to balance dampness. Its direction is middle/center which signifies balance. The emotion that Five Element Theory associates with Late Summer is worry/concern which is obviated by trust/faith.
During Late Summer, the Early Summer heat is beginning to cool and the earth energy is beginning to prepare for the Fall. Although fruits are prevalent in this season, excessive eating of fruit can lead to excessive dampness later on. Smaller meals are beneficial just now. It is important to continue to resist the temptation of cold drinks and too much raw foods such as salads. Remember, the stomach likes warm foods and this is Stomach Season! Be especially good to your Stomach/Spleen energy now and reap the rewards later.
SOME FOODS FOR LATE SUMMER
Almond, Apple, Barley, Blueberries Buckwheat, Cabbage, Carrots, Cherry, Chestnuts, Chicken, Chive, Coconut, Cooked onion, Corn, Cow’s milk, Crab, Cucumber, Dates, Duck eggs, Eggplant, Figs, Fruits (sweeter), Garlic, Ginger, Grapes, Hawthorne Berries, Hazelnuts, Honey, Job’s tears (Chinese Barley Coix Seeds), Lamb, Licorice, Lotus root, Mangos, Melons, Millet, Molasses, Mushrooms (especially button mushrooms), Oats, Oranges, Peanuts, Peaches, Peas, Potato, Pumpkins, Red Chinese Dates (Jujube), Rye, Squashes, Strawberry, Sugar, Sweet potatoes, Water chestnut, Watermelon
Hawthorn Berry (Shan Zha): This berry is the fruit of a small shrub/tree that grows in Europe, Asia, North America and Britain. It has been widely used in both Chinese medicine and in western natural medicines for centuries. In Chinese medicine, it is used to balance a variety of situations including digestion, improve qi flow, stimulate circulation (move blood), relieve stress, regulate blood pressure and as a mild diuretic. This red berry is warm in essence and has both a sweet and tart flavor. It is available dried at your local Asian market and online. For more specific naturopathic herbal information visit the University of Maryland Medical Center website: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/hawthorn-000256.htm. These berries make an excellent and refreshing tea. They harmonize well with goji berries and with red dates. Below is a recipe for Hawthorne Berries with Red Dates.
Hawthorne Berries with Red Dates and Honey
32 oz of water
9 slices of dried Hawthorne Berries
1 thin round slice of ginger
3 Red Dates cut a lengthwise slit in each
Honey to taste
Place the Hawthorne berry slices, ginger and dates in the water and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, pour everything into your tea pot and let it steep for another 6 or so minutes so that the tea is still warm, but not very hot. Pour and add honey to taste. Enjoy the fragrant aroma as well as the color and taste all as part of the benefit of this tea.
Adjust this recipe to your own taste. Red Dates are also available at your local Asian market and online.
See above for some of the benefits of Hawthorne Berries.
Red Dates are also a digestive aid in Chinese medicine and are a Late Summer food. Ginger is another digestive aid. All in all, this simple tea is a pleasing drink that aids digestion.
Simple Water, Cucumber, Mint, Lime Refresher
Ingredients per person:
8 oz of room temperature filtered water
1 thin slice of cucumber
2-3 small mint leaves
1 slice of lime
Put the cucumber, mint and lime in each water glass, pour water over them. Combining ordinary items that you might have on hand is a quick way to create a tea. This combination is very hydrating, cooling and relaxing on a hot and humid day.
6 cups 1-1/2” cubes of watermelon
¼ cup grated fresh ginger
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup diced cilantro leaves (or flat Italian parsley leaves)
½ cup thinly sliced scallion whites only
1 tsp salt
Mix all the ingredients except the watermelon together, pour over the watermelon and toss gently taking care not to bruise the watermelon and allowing all the pieces have had some “dressing” on them.
The cooling and refreshing qualities of this Summer recipe are apparent. . so just enjoy and know you are helping your health in a fun way!
Cooling Bean Sprouts – Quick Saute
Bean sprouts which are Cooling in nature are also considered a food that reduces inflammation.
2 TB of a light oil, such as grape seed or walnut oil
4-5 scallions thinly sliced – whites only
1 small clove minced garlic
1/2” of finely minced ginger
1 lb of mung bean sprouts
½ of a medium red bell pepper sliced thinly lengthwise and then in half horizontally
1 TB lemon juice
OPTIONAL: Finely chopped Cilantro; or Mint, a sprinkling of Toasted Sesame Seed Oil or Black Sesame Seeds for garnish.
In a skillet or wok heat the oil and add the garlic, ginger, and scallions. Heat through – about 1 minute. Add all of the mung bean sprouts at once and toss lightly with the seasonings. As soon as the sprouts begin to wilt, add the red bell pepper slices and toss them through. Do not over cook. Remove from heat and toss in the lemon juice (the sprouts will continue to cook when removed from the heat). Put on your serving platter and garnish with any of the above selections or something of your own.
Ellsara Kling -Having been a chef and a food consultant for those with “health conditions” and the elderly, 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, email@example.com