Considering that eating for the season is not strictly a Chinese medicine, or indeed a Chinese cultural idea. It can be seen in the history of most cultures, especially those with at least two distinct seasons. It use to be part of our languages to say something to this effect, eat warm food in the winter or take some cooling foods in the summer heat. I think today, for many reasons, at least to some degree, we have muted the intuitively and instinctive activity of discernment of what we allow to pass our lips as nourishment. Those of us who, are unable or struggling in any real way to get enough to eat, this is, of course, irrelevant. With respect for those with not enough and gratitude for our daily bread, let's explore this concept of eating foods for the season. Let us then apply what we see to the cold season of winter.
In Chinese culture and categorized extensively by their medicine, foods are: hot, cold, warm, cool or neutral. The countering of food to season then becomes natural and deceivingly simple...why deceivingly simple?
Firstly, looking at the five food temperatures we see they are actually just variations of two opposites, Hot and Cold . Just as is all Chinese Medicine, food temperature is another presentation of it’s base theory…opposites. Especially as opposites appear and interact in nature. The same way that simple binary in mathematics can generate by combinations and sequencing, more complex forms of mathematics; further, speaking to the power of opposites, binary (i.e. 0 &1) is the bases for computer language.
Secondly, if when we eat for the season by only eating, for example, hot foods in the winter then we will have created an unbalanced diet. Many food therapies that insists, only eat this or don’t eat any of these foods, are not only unbalanced they have the potential to create an opposite effect…unbalanced and therefore harmful. Good food therapy is balanced. Look for balanced advise that is worded something to this effect, add your choice of these groups of food; also, these foods may make create a problem. What is a good diet for me may or may not be the right one for you. Someone else has a diet that creates balance that with you may make you so out of balance that, on a consistent bases, your tummy hurts and to relieve this, your gaseous expression clears the room...excuse me.
Some foods to consider eating for the season…winter: squashes, potatoes, root vegetables, winter greens, mushrooms, apples, pears and citrus fruits. In winter, our bodies need more warming meals like soups made with hearty vegetables. If you suffer from a weak digestion consider more clear broth vegetable soups. When we cook food we increase its intrinsic temperature, this is true of all foods. What is meant by intrinsic temperature is not the temperature on your tongue, that is why foods like citrus are intrinsically hot yet cool on your tongue. Foods that specifically nourish and warm are: black beans, kidney beans, citrus fruit, broths cooked with bones, lamb, chicken, walnuts, chestnuts, black sesame seeds and dark leafy greens. One may consider seasoning with Himalayan or unrefined sea salt.
Remember too, that your climate should always influence your food choices no matter what season. What is winter in a northern climate is not at all the same winter in a southern climate. As I write this, my wife Maureen and I are sitting in the Senora desert of southern Arizona. It is the beginning of the winter season and we’re about to have some watermelon, a tasty cooling food, to help us cool down…currently 85 degrees Fahrenheit.