Savoring Seasonal Foods

The weather is changing. Even here in the Bay Area, our days of 80-degree weather have come to an end. I spent as much time as possible in the garden these last days of Late Summer, and less time on the computer blogging. As days become shorter and nights grow colder, our natural inclination is to contract and pull inward. In the evening, I find myself sipping warming herbal teas and eating differently.

A traditional approach to food
One of my favorite classes in my master’s program in Holistic Health Education was Asian Healing Modalities, taught by Tamara Wolfson, L.Ac. I learned, for example, that the Chinese look for patterns of imbalance in the body, and seek to restore harmony to the system as a whole. They use food as medicine to preserve and restore health.

Five Element theory is an important concept in Chinese medicine. Life is cyclical and unfolds in patterns. Each season of the year is associated with an element, organ, taste, etc. As Late Summer (earth) gives way to Autumn (metal), flavors shift from sweet (good-bye, figs!) to pungent (hello, horseradish).

Autumn is associated with the Metal element and Pungent taste

Eating seasonally makes sense no matter what your practice or philosophy. Locally grown vegetables and fruits, picked at their peak, are packed with flavor and micronutrients. Produce that travels hundreds or thousands of miles loses its vitality, not to mention carbon footprint considerations…

Autumn foods to savor now

In northern California, Autumn brings an abundance of choices, including:

  • Apples, avocados, cranberries, grapes, pears, lemon, quince, tomatoes
  • Acorn, butternut, kabocha and spaghetti squashes; artichokes; cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale); root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, turnips); lettuces, mushrooms, olives, pumpkin, radishes
  • Garlic, horseradish, various herbs
  • Grains, nuts, seeds… and more

Live elsewhere? Check here for what’s in season.

We're down to the last few tomatoes on our backyard vine.

To add more pungency to your plate, cook with cayenne, ginger, and/or turmeric. These warming spices help move Qi — the life force — in the body.

Add a little spice to your cooking with fresh grated ginger.

How about a pumpkin or squash curry for dinner tonight? Prefer Latin flavors? Try making a spicy pumpkin seed dip.

Interested in learning more about Chinese medicine?
More information can be found on the web. Ask a friend or health professional for a referral to a licensed acupuncturist in your area. Community acupuncture clinics are an affordable option; one is opening in Alameda later this month.

What are some of your favorite fall foods?
Please comment below.

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About Susan MacLaughlin

A health & wellness coach and workshop leader, Susan empowers people to take charge of their health.
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One Response to Savoring Seasonal Foods

  1. Lisa says:

    I’m so intrigued by this topic! It’s funny/interesting, too, how northern Cali and Upstate NY have many of the same foods in season right now.
    I’ve been adding turmeric and chipotle powder to a lot of my foods just due to cravings, but maybe my inner chinese medicine enthusiast is directing that!

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