Rebuild Yourself During the Harvest
Many, many of the people I've talked to this week have been extra tired.
I have a theory: that this fabulous weather is invigorating, inspiring, and motivating, and we're all doing much more than we were last week. In the absence of the hot, humid drag that summer can have on our to-do lists, we're suddenly presented with the both an ideal environment to accomplish tasks we've put off, and the foreboding of more inhospitable weather- of the cold, icy variety.
It is worth it, however, to take some time and consider what this season is about.
Flowers that have been lazily bobbing about all summer are suddenly putting out seed. Fruits that have been taking in the scenery, slowly ballooning in size, are suddenly ripening and falling. Animals that have been dozing on hot afternoons are suddenly out at all hours, munching away and putting on their winter storage.
This last flurry of activity is all about preparation, building up, maximizing, optimizing, and storage before winter- a season that's all about hunkering down, being quiet, resting and restoring.
This makes Autumn the perfect time of year to heal! (Keep an eye out, I'll make the same argument for the next 3 seasons, too. It's all relative :) )
Enjoying the bounty that Autumn brings us signals a shift in our eating patterns- from summer salads and crisp-tender veg and quick grilled meats, to long-roasting, stewing, souping, and crockpots. It also allows our bodies to shift from the quick, light fare that cools us in the heat, to heavier, warm, sweet foods (in an Ayurvedic Tastes sense) that also imbibe us with the energies of the earth as it goes through it's own storage rituals.
Root vegetables hold all the promise of next years' growth, stored in their sweet layers deep in the comforting, supportive earth.
Seeds (including nuts) hold that same promise, and hold a sense of fresh air, sunshine and youth in their tight shells.
Mushrooms wait all summer for the cool dampness September brings, and help to bridge the gap between layers of the forest, between freshly fallen leaves and rich, dark hummus underneath, in the same way that they work with your body.
Squashes, with their hard rinds perfect for outlasting the whole season, yield a melting, soft, sweet interior, and gift us with all those qualities too.
Here's an example of a whole day's meal plan, based on this transition time between full-fledged Summer and outright Autumn:
Natural Support During the Changing of the Seasons
Autumn is a beautiful time in Pennsylvania, full of color and smells and textures. The sunlight is already changing by mid-August, a reminder that at the Summer Solstice, the sun came as close as possible and we began our descent toward Winter. The air changes, becoming dryer and crisper and full of stories about ripening and harvesting and dying. The insects and birds change their tunes, too, and even the thunderstorms seem less enthusiastic without their hot, humid, summertime energy.
These changes outside bring changes to my inside as well, and not all of them are welcome! While ANY drop in the humidity is wonderful, it immediately signals dry hands and lips. Then too, the very fact that the air isn’t oppressive and stifling anymore encourages me to get out and work more, do more, to prepare for the future and to maximize my present.
My birthday is in early September, so I have a clear marker as I think back over the years and see that, consistently, this time of year always brings upheavals, major shifts, and nostalgia to my world.
In the spirit of all these changes, all these signals that time is moving on again after the long, lazy(ish) days of summer, here are my Five Favorite Fall Fixes:
As Miss Celine, Emily’s ancient stylist, shared on Gilmore Girls, “Olive oil on the inside, ahnnnd on the outside!”
Personally, coconut oil serves me well. I like how it tastes, and how it absorbs into my skin. I use it as a deodorant, as a moisturizer, and as a cooking oil because it has a higher smoke point than olive so it’s harder to burn. I also keep a small plastic jar in my shower and oil cleanse my face a few times a month. It'a amazing
Anytime the weather turns dryer, I start upping my oil intake. I’ll add a dollop of coconut to a mug of tea, or make popcorn with it. I splash good olive on all sorts of dishes as a dressing. The local Home Goods sells metal, cylindrical containers of nice, fancy oils like Toasted Hazelnut and Grapeseed, that make their way into all sorts of meals. Good quality fish oils also make daily appearances and do a LOT for me and my mood!
Avocado counts too, and I love to make a quick mash with lemon and Tulsi as a side salad or spread on top of anything that will hold it.
Grounding, nourishing, strengthening- root vegetables give us all the same qualities they need to do their rooty jobs. In Ayurveda, sweet tastes are building, and roots are classic examples of sweet. Plus, they cook up so soft and warm and delicious, in a heavy, substantial way that just isn’t desirable when it’s warmer outside.
In addition to common vegetables like beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, rutabagas,etc, I like herbal root powders as well. Marshmallow root powder, combined with honey and bananas and coconut butter and sesame seeds is one of my favorite breakfasts. I sprinkle Licorice root powder into hot chocolate, or on a Mediterranean style rice pilaf with raisins and cinnamon. Dandelion root is a wonderful way to nourish the liver, especially as it works harder with denser fall foods, and I keep a jar of Dandy Blend at my desk for when I can’t simmer a proper tea for 10 minutes or so.
Adaptogens are a class of herbs that help your body respond to stress and the environment in non-specific ways, rather than hitting one body system directly. They commonly have immune, nervous system, adrenal, and digestive effects that are calming, normalizing, or nourishing.
Many of these herbs are familiar to areas like Northern China and Siberia, so we Westerners are only learning of them recently because, seriously, their research is only recently being translated out of Russian and Chinese! It shows how ingrained the internet is in my understanding of the world, that I was surprised that not everything is available in every language, or at least the major ones. That’s slightly embarrassing... Several of Ayurveda’s popular herbs are also considered in terms of their ‘adaptogenic’ qualities and are expanding the materia medica available to us.
Eleuthero, Rhodioa, Ashwaghanda, Amla, Ginseng, Astragalus, Tulsi- these are all adaptogens. Each has its own personality, there's never "One Perfect Herb For [enter your condition], and David Winston’s Adaptogens is a good starting point for learning about each. Another great resource is Avena Botanicals youTube videos on specific herbs, like Ashwaghanda or Tulsi (aka Sacred Basil).
In my view, quality care, quality lives, and quality slaughter leads to quality animal products, and I shop for my meat, bones, and raw dairy at a local family farm.
Bones, specifically in the form of bone broth, are a wonderful, rich source of gelatine, that softens and protects my digestive system. I traditionally am very dry and cold, so in the winter I suffer even more.
I usually use chicken or turkey bones to make soup, or to cook rice or grains. But in the dead of winter, I will make a beef broth in the crockpot that simmers non-stop. I have a mug straight up in the morning, and at least one more during the afternoon or evening. Every time I take out a mugfull, I add a mug of water back and just keep it going. Usually, I just use water and a shin bone, and it lasts several days before starting to chip and losing flavor. If I have veggie trimmings or a Reishi mushroom piece I will throw them in too. A splash of Apple Cider Vinegar helps pull minerals out of all bones and into the broth, as well.
5. Wool and silk
Fall is a sensory experience! The smell of crisp leaves, ripe apples, frosty mornings, the crinkle of your nose in the dry chill, the whisper of cool breezes on your face, the comforting feeling of a down quilt in the morning.
I knitted a long striped cowl scarf out of some yarns I found in a clearance bin. They are mixtures of merino wool, cashmere, and raw silk, and the smell of those fibers just says AUTUMN! to my nose. A wool jacket, a silk undershirt- I just love love love it.
Fall is a chance for me to really change things “on the inside, and on the outside” and prepare my body and my mind for true winter, true cold and short days and staying in more. Let it serve as an actual transition between the energy and exuberance that is possible in summertime, and the quieter, slower, indrawn resting that marks nature in winter.
*Please note, some links are to my Amazon Affiliate Account, where I'll earn a few cents off any purchase you make. Thanks!
Last week I was lucky enough to take a tour of the Highlands Mansion gardens and wild areas with members of the Pennypack Farm Herb Study Group, led by forager Sarah Murray. Sarah lived for over 20 years in France, and developed an interest from her former husband François Couplan, a renowned expert on the edible plants of the world.
We met in the evening and, knowing we had limited light, tried to get as much in as we could even though we could stop every few feet in just the tended CSA beds to find wonderful edibles! Right away Sarah pointed out Evening Primrose with her precious flowers and edible leaves, growing all by herself near the garden gate, and a lush hedgerow of Mugwort that led us to a discussion of Mugwort cake in Korean culture. Interesting note: Mugwort looks like Feverfew when it's young.
Lamb's Quarters was standing near the Basil rows, and Sarah explained she much prefers to call it by another common name, Wild Spinach, since that makes people more likely to try it! It's a relative of Quinoa, and the seeds can be used in the same way. A distinguishing feature is a white bloom, or powder, on the very young leaves. And yes, it tastes like spinach.
Wild Carrot IS Queen Anne's Lace! I didn't know that! She's a biennial, so the first year has low growing, ferny, carrot-like leaves and tiny carrot-like taproots that smell STRONGLY of carrot. In the second year, the flower stalk shoots up into the familiar white umbrel with the dark drop in the center. She has hairy stems and very aromatic seeds, unlike Wild Hemlock, a potential look-alike that is VERY TOXIC but has no smell (seeds, roots or otherwise) and no hairs.
We came upon Velvet Leaf, a relative of Marshmallow that I wasn't familiar with before. It develops a fun pod with edible seeds that taste a little like green peppers. The leaves are also edible, and lend an interesting texture to a pesto.
There was plenty of Red Clover all over the CSA beds as well, and we discussed the white chevron on the leaves that marks the medicinal plants.
Next, we found Galinsoga, a weed I have seen many times and one that Sarah didn't have a common name for. It makes a nice salad green and has edible flowers, too.
Finally, we searched out a patch of Ground Ivy that Sarah had scouted earlier. It's great for allergic sinus issues, but tonight we were going to make Ground Ivy Chips!
After it got too dark, we went back to one of our fellow walker's homes for snacks. We had a nice salad with all sorts of greens and flowers, a superb pesto and the chips, with some crackers and a fantastic tea of Hibiscus, Cinnamon, Stevia and Nettles.
More Foraged Plants from Fellow Walker Hilarie
Ground Ivy Chips:
Dressing - 2 tbs balsamic vinegar, pinch of salt, pinch of garlic powder, olive oil.
Mix ingredients in that order, then coat the washed and stemmed leaves
Place the leaves one-by-one on a lightly oiled cookie sheet, smoothing out so they are open and flat.
Place in oven preheated to 400º, and leave in exactly 3 minutes.
Remove leaves from sheet immediately and enjoy!
Garlic Mustard leaves, Velvetleaf leaves, and any other aromatic leaves work well (Basil, Parsley, Cilantro, etc.).
Soak 1 cup raw almonds overnight and remove the skins.
Place them in a food processor, and add the leaves, washed and stemmed (about 2-3 cups) and salt. You can also add fresh garlic for flavor.
Add 2-3 tbs coconut oil and blend. Add water or coconut milk to obtain a smooth texture.
Fun Fact: I'm an herbalist and a movement coach. Not a doctor, or a pharmacist, and not pretending to be one on TV.
This is a public space, so my writing reflects my experiences and I try to stay general enough so it might relate to you. This does not constitute medical advice, and I encourage you to discuss concerns with your doctor. Remember, however, that the final say in your wellness decisions are always yours- you have the power to choose, you are the boss of you.
And, some of my posts may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them I'll earn a few cents. Thank you for supporting my work.
This website is provided for educational and informational purposes only and is not medical, mental health or healthcare advice. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose, treat, heal, cure or prevent any illness, medical condition or mental or emotional condition. Working with us is not a guarantee of any results. Paula Billig owns all copyrights to the materials presented here unless otherwise noted.