We live in a culture where most foods are available to us at any time of the year.
Go into your local food store in the middle of winter and you will probably find strawberries, despite the fact that they are only able to grow in our climate for a few months of the year.
However, long ago it was discovered that our internal organs respond in very specific ways to seasonal changes in the weather and diet. Our bodies function best when we eat like our ancestors did, consuming foods appropriate to the season. In every season, particular foods stimulate chi—or vital energy—to flow through our organs. This cycle repeats itself every year, creating Mother Nature’s perfect plan for nourishing each organ of our body.
Although this concept may seem new to some of you, it is something you know intuitively. Think about the foods that you crave in the warm summer months and those you are craving now. Are they the same? Probably not. While fresh fruits, smoothies, and salads may make your mouth water in the summer, warming soups and casseroles are more likely what your body may be starting to crave.
Below are some of the ways your cooking should change as you adjust from the warmer to the cooler months ahead:
Cooking Style: more heat; longer cooking time; more baking, boiling, stews, soups, crock-pot meals; less raw foods
Vegetables: rounder, denser, compact veggies such as winter squash (acorn, butternut, delicata, kabocha), potatoes, yams, root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, beets, turnips); sturdy winter greens (kale, collards, chard); less raw vegetables and vegetables juices
Beans: larger beans that require a longer cooking time such as chickpeas, black beans, aduki beans, pinto beans
Grains: warming grains such as sweet or short grain rice, buckwheat, oatmeal, and millet
Fruits: only what is in season, possibly cooked (apples, pears, cranberries, pomegranate); less fruit juices
Seasonings: more oils (olive, sesame, ghee); darker miso (red, brown rice); warming spices (ginger, garlic, cumin, cinnamon); more vinegar (balsamic, rice, apple cider, plum)
Not only does eating seasonally subtly connect you to your surroundings, it can give your organs a boost and help your body to function better.
If you are not sure what’s in season where you live, visit your local farmers market to see what fresh produce is being offered. If you cannot shop at a farmers market in the winter, start by looking for some of the seasonal fruits and vegetables listed above.
Warm Green Salad with Honeyed Pears, Cranberries & Pomegranate
by Debbie Steinbock
1 bunch kale, tough stems removed
1 pear, cored and shredded
¼ cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup pomegranate seeds (optional)
fresh lemon juice
In a large pot, steam the kale until tender.
In a medium bowl, combine the shredded pear, cranberries, pomegranate and walnuts.
In a small bowl combine the lemon juice, olive oil, cinnamon and honey to taste; add to the pear mixture.
Drain the kale and place in a large bowl.
Top the kale with the sweet cinnamon dressing, pears, cranberries, pomegranate and walnuts.
Delicata Squash Rounds
by Debbie Steinbock
2 medium sized delicata squash
approximately 2 Tbsp olive oil
approximately 1 tsp. sea salt
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Peel both squash and then slice it (width-wise) into rounds, about ½” each.
Lay the rounds flat and gently scoop the seeds from each.
Toss the squash with olive oil and salt in a bowl.
Place the squash rounds flat on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
Bake for 15 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
Author: Debbie Steinbock
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Dave Fayram/Flickr