This is the post we wrote for Bay Shakti, the Anusara Yoga based web-zine based in San Francisco. Have a look over their wonderful site too!!
There is nothing like the abundance of Autumn. Every year, the crispy apples, jewel-like figs, and endless colors of the farmer’s market harvest delight our senses and beg us to spend more time playing and dancing in the kitchen. The magic of Autumn lies in the change of cycles. Everything ripens at once it seems, before the days get shorter, before the chilly winds come in. There is fullness, perfection, and absolute glory in Nature’s abundance. It’s almost dizzying deciding what to prepare and eat!
Nature is preparing for the winter, calling us to harvest and save for the time when life is cold and resting. Fall is the time of Retreat and cleansing with a kitchari, to let go of the heat of Summer and the intensity of months of playing and working hard with the fullness of sun. It is a natural time to lighten up while still nourishing the body in preparation for the coming colder weather and shorter days. It is an important time for us to step back, unplug, and connect with Nature’s cycles once again.
As its name suggests, the Fall time portends the movements from the peak of Summer and its yang and pitta qualities into the Winter with its yin and kaphic essences. Autumn is a time of high vata qualities because of this movement in transition. This is the time to relieve the fire of summer, return to the earth of autumn, while preparing for the water of winter and nourish the related organs: heart/small intestines, stomach/spleen/pancreas, and kidneys/uro-genital organs respectively.
Twists, forward bends, and hip-openers are best at this time of year. They encourage a centered, clear mind, nourished and toned body, a vitality that comes from settling one’s Self and nurturing the sacred body. We drive ourselves tirelessly to the next thing without ever taking deep rest. To reset your body and your soul, take a RETREAT! Or at least do restorative yoga once a week. Be kind to yourself and spend a little more time this season in meditation, listening to the gifts of your heart.
When you get to your local farmer’s market, you can watch the change unwind as the denser, sweeter, more vata pacifying fruits and vegetables start showing up. Many of these foods are going to be keys to our success in settling and nourishing the body, mind and spirit after its summer rush. Since the heat of summer yang tends to exhaust the body of yin essence, Nature gives us options to bring some cool back in and rehydrate.
Here are some foods of late summer falling into winter and some recipes to create balance during your transition of seasons.
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes and squash overflow right now. Tomatoes are very cooling and increase yin fluids in the body. They purify the blood and reduce liver heat which is often the cause of headaches and red eyes. Make sure to pick them fresh and plump!
- Squashes: The summer squashes are also deeply cooling, hydrating and are also diuretic. They promote an exchange of fluids that is key for lymph health and immune stability.
- Mint: Mint calms the spirit, soothes the heart, and brings relief to summer excess.
- Barley: Barley is of the earth element and mildly cooling in nature yet nourishing to the entire digestive system. In its whole, not pearled, form, barley moistens dryness, builds blood and is key for indigestion due to heat and spleen/pancreas deficiency. Like Mung beans, when sprouted it is considered a medicinal herb in Chinese traditions.
- Mushrooms: Mushrooms, both dried and cultivated, are calming to the spirit and relieving of excess pitta and yang. They’re wonderful for counteracting toxins accumulated though stagnancy often assiciated with meat consuption.
Harvest Salad with Mint Lime Vinaigrette Salad:
½ bunch of Black Kale, finely chopped & sprinkled w/salt & lime juice.
4 cups Mixed Greens
1 Zucchini, thinly sliced
2 Yellow Squash, thinly sliced
2 Paddy Pan Squash, thinly sliced
2 Heirloom Tomatoes, carefully sliced
After mixing the kale, salt, and lime juice, set aside while slicing the remaining ingredients and also making the dressing. Once your ingredients are prepared, toss the mixed greens in the kale. Top your salad with beautiful slices of the squashes and tomatoes. Serve with Mint Lime Vinaigrette drizzled over top. For more grounding, add pumpkin seeds, walnuts or goat cheese over top the salad. Enjoy!
Mint Lime Vinaigrette:
3 Cups fresh Mint leaves, chopped
⅔ Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
⅓ Cup fresh squeezed Lime juice
3 Cups Grapeseed Oil
½ tsp. Sea Salt
½ tsp. Black Pepper
Vitamix it. Enjoy!
Black Barley Stew with Parsley Roots and Mushrooms
2 oz dried mushrooms, wild
16 Cups water
2 Leeks, halved and cut into thin half-moons
1 Red Onion (2 cups), diced
2 Cups Carrots, diced
5 Stalks Celery, diced
6 Cloves Garlic, diced
5 Parsley roots, peeled and diced
2 Tbs. Salt
1 Tsp. Black pepper, ground
2 Tbs. Balsamic vinegar
1 Cup Black barley or whole barley (not pearled)
1 Cup mushrooms, fresh wild, chopped
Fresh Goat Cheese (optional)
In a medium pot, add all water, dried mushrooms, leek greens, onion skins, and carrot and celery ends. Bring up to a boil and simmer for 30-45 minutes while you chop and saute all other ingredients. While this mushroom stock is getting tastier, put your soup pot on medium-high heat. In a touch of grapeseed oil, saute onions, carrots, and celery until the onions become translucent. Add barley and toast for a minute or two. Strain your amazing mushroom stock and add it to the sauteed veggies and barley. After adding the stock, also add the fresh mushrooms, chopped leeks, and parsley root. Bring soup to a boil for 10 minutes, then lower temperature to a simmer for 1 to 1.5 hours or until barley has softened. Add salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar when finished cooking. Adjust seasonings to taste. If you are so inclined, add a little dollop of fresh goat cheese to the top of your bowl right before you enjoy. Don’t forget to compost your leftovers from the stock pot. Enjoy!!
While all the varied abundance abounds, we simply and healthfully can’t eat it all! So save it. Wait until winter to eat some of this year’s harvest. For millennia, cultures around the world have been pickling their harvest. Adding a pickled vegetable with your meal has been used the world over as an important digestive stimulant and aid, especially when the internal fires in the digestive system slow during winter’s heavy diet and less movement routines.
Here is a simple way of saving some of the myriad options coming out of the farms. You can exchange the green beans in the recipes for peppers, pickling cucumbers, radishes, beets, carrot, onions, shallots, garlic, fennel, and more.
What you need:
1 lb Green Beans
1.5 Cups Vinegar (I prefer apple cider vinegar)
1 Cups Water
1/8 Cup Salt
1 Clove Garlic, peeled
1 Sprig Rosemary (optional)
1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
1 Pinch Mustard Seeds (optional)
1 Stick Cinnamon (optional)
4 one-pint mason jars, boiled and sterilized
First, make your brine. Add your vinegar, water, garlic, salt, and spices. Bring it up to a boil until the salt is dissolved. In your boiled and sterilized jars with unchipped and smooth rims, pack your beans in lengthwise. Slip your cinnamon stick and rosemary in, and then add your brine. Make sure your brine completely covers your vegetables. Screw on the tops and place your full closed jars in a pot of water. Canning pots and baskets are great. I highly recommend using one. Make sure the jars are completely submerged in the water. Bring the water up to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. You can also follow the canning directions that comes on a new box of jars. After 10 minutes, remove from the water and set in a cool place to return to room temperature. Store in a cool dark place. Enjoy throughout the winter.