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Foods to Support Summer Health

Menu_0811Based on the 5 elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine the summer months can be divided into Fire and Earth elements. Fire element begins in May and represents the building of heat from the summer sun. The heart, pericardium, triple burner and small intestine are governed by the element of fire and the color red.

This combination of fire and heat creates sweat to cool the body and requires cooling foods with a bitter taste. Corn and amaranth are two grains favorable for fire element along with the dark leafy greens, Swiss chard, kale, collards, lettuce greens, arugula, watercress, and spinach. These foods are often the first ones harvested and sold in the farmers market at the end of spring.

Hot red peppers are used to create internal heat causing the body to sweat and cool off with a light summer breeze. Not always recommended for the cold winter months when a good sweat is not the answer to staying warm. Other red foods that support Fire element include beets, strawberries, raspberries and pomegranates all grown from May to August when the summer shifts into Earth element or Indian summer.

FIRE ELEMENT

Organs: Heart/Small Intestine (Pericardium, Triple Burner)

Season/Color: Summer/Red

Emotion: Joy

Energy direction: Outward

Taste: Bitter

Vegetables: Bitter greens, kale, collards, dandelion, endive, escarole, scallions

Fruit: strawberries, raspberries, persimmon, apricot

Seeds: sesame, sunflower

Nuts: pistachios, bitter almonds

Legume: Red lentils

Liquid: beer, coffee, chocolate, wine

Cooking Method: Stir-fry, roasting, grilling

In the natural progression of one element feeding the other, Fire's strong heart and small intestine nurtures and builds the digestive strength of the stomach, spleen and pancreas represented by Earth element. Beginning in August the days grow shorter heading towards fall, the evenings cooler and late summer gardens are abundant with fresh produce. Earth element is nurtured by the sweet taste and the color yellow. If sweat is the body fluid for Fire element, saliva is the fluid for Earth and with it comes enzymes powerful enough to breakdown the many foods we ingest.

The grains millet and barley support the spleen, an important organ for storing blood and directing the intestines. Other whole grains provide a nourishing sweet taste and to understand this chew cooked whole grains to liquid and savor the sweetness they hold. Whole wheat, spelt, brown rice, kamut and quinoa provide essential B vitamins and needed fiber for intestinal health and the ability to absorb nutrients.

EARTH ELEMENT

Organs: Stomach/Spleen, Pancreas

Season/Color: Early Autumn/Orange

Energy direction: Downward

Emotion: Worry/anxiety

Taste: Sweet

Vegetables: Sweet vegetables, carrot, winter squash, cabbage, onion, sweet potato, parsnip, corn on the cob, pumpkin

Fruit: Apple, banana, cantaloupe, coconut, currants, dates, figs, grapes, mango, all fruit

Nuts: Almonds, filberts, pecans, pine nuts, macadamia nuts

Sweeteners: Honey, maple syrup, carob, rice syrup, agave syrup

Bean: Chickpeas

Cooking Method: Boiling

 

RECIPES

FIRE ELEMENT

Kale Walnut Salad

  • 1 bunch organic kale, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup fennel bulb, chopped
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 2 stalk green onion
  1. In a large skillet or saucepan, place 1/4-inch water and add the kale.
  2. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. When tender, cool, chop, and place in a salad bowl. Add the fennel, walnuts, and green onion.
  4. Toss with the green goddess dressing.

Green Goddess Dressing: 1/2 cup Vegenaise * 1 anchovy fillet * ¼ cup chopped shallot * ¼ cup parsley * 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice * 1 tsp. white wine vinegar.

  1. Place anchovy, shallot, parsley, lemon juice and vinegar into a food processor and pulse to chop.
  2. Add the Vegenaise and puree until smooth.
  3. Serve on salad, as a dip or a spread on bread.

EARTH ELEMENT

Millet Mashed Potatoes

Yield: 4 - 6 servings

  • 1 cup millet, washed
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 head small cauliflower, broken into pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 cup tahini 
  1. In a saucepan combine the millet, cauliflower, onion, and sea salt.
  2. Add the water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
  3. When done add the tahini and mix well.
  4. Serve immediately or spoon into a casserole pan and allow to cool.

FIRE AND EARTH COMBINATION

Spicy Greens and Chick Peas

Yield: 4 - 6 servings

  • 2 large bunches mixed greens or spinach (frozen spinach works also)
  • Water as needed
  • 3 Tbs. ghee or sunflower oil
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 2 inch piece ginger, peeled and crushed
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 4 green Thai or Serrano chilies
  • 2 tsp. garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup soymilk or heavy cream (coconut milk could work as well)
  • Large handful of fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Salt to taste
  1. Cook the greens with a small quantity of water, just enough to keep them from sticking, until wilted. Remove from the heat.
  2. Melt the ghee or butter, or heat the oil, in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and add the ginger, garlic, and chilies.
  3. Sauté for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  4. Add the cooked greens, any of its liquid, and the chickpeas.
  5. Stir and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Add the garam masala and nutmeg and simmer another 10 minutes.
  7. Add the cream, cilantro, and salt and gently simmer for 5 minutes.


Find out more about related services in the Washington area:

Produce - Natural/Organic, Farms - Organic, Grocery Stores

Delia Quigley is a holistic health practitioner, author of seven health books and an experienced yoga instructor. She also teaches the exquisite science of preparing whole, organic foods to support and strengthen the mind, body and spirit.