Mother Earth, Fall, and Chinese Medicine

November 23, 2017

Recently, the time came to dismantle our community garden plot for the year. Our biggest tasks were to remove all the critter-proof fencing, rip out any large plants, and take our tools and watering cans home. Even though it was the end of the season, the garden was still cranking out food. Surprisingly, there were still green beans, cherry tomatoes, squash, peppers, tomatillos, and eggplants. Despite the gray, cool weather, we hadn’t had a hard freeze yet, and the earth seemed to be hell-bent on feeding us for as long as possible.

In Chinese medicine, each season carries with it a task, something we should be doing to survive or at least stay as healthy as possible. Our task during the fall is to eat well and stock up for the coming winter, and it seems as though our gardens and orchards everywhere are happy to comply. Even in our small garden plot, it’s clear that fall is a time of abundance.

Chinese medicine has lots to say about each season. Here are some key things to know about fall:

Eat Foods in Season. Not only does the earth supply us with an overflowing harvest in fall, but it also provides the right kinds of foods. During the summer, we pick berries, tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuces—all foods that don’t keep well without intervention in the form of canning, cooking, or freezing. However, as the weather cools down, we get winter squash, root vegetables, beans, and apples—foods that keep much longer into the winter. It feels like Mother Earth has our back.

Beyond keeping well into the winter, fall crops are also heavier and heartier. They’re easier to digest, give us more energy, and are warmer energetically. These are the foods that will bulk us up and get us through the cold months.

Eat Well. In Chinese medicine, fall actually encompasses two seasons, that of late summer and of fall. Symbolic of the harvest, late summer is associated with your spleen and the process of eating and digestion. It’s a time of plenty, and you’re meant to eat lots, digest well, and store energy.

Fall Foods Can Fight Illness. Fall is typically a time of drying out. In Chinese medicine, it’s associated with your lungs, which also encompasses the respiratory system and immune functions. Fall is a time of seasonal allergies and the first colds of the winter season. Again, Mother Nature has you covered, because traditional fall fruits like apples and pears are used to strengthen and moisten your lungs. In addition, acrid foods that are ripening now like onions and garlic are warming, and are good for fighting off colds and flu.

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