Autumn is such a beautiful season, it is a time for harvest, a time of gathering up in preparation for winter.  You can feel the change in the air, the weather is cool and crisp, even when the sun is out.  You can see the change in fruits and vegetables at the market, apples, pears and sweet potatoes are the new harvest.  Autumn is a time to wear more clothing layers, to go to bed a little earlier and to transition away from eating raw, cooling foods of Summer to warmer, more nourishing foods of Autumn. In this season we start baking, roasting and slow-cooking. 

Our bodies begin to harvest and gather energy for the colder months and moving it down for storage. Yang which is the dominant energy in summer starts giving way to yin which is the dominant energy in winter. If there is any excess heat in the body then Autumn is the season for clearing it. After that we can then start warming it from the inside in preparation for the colder months. Autumn is also the season of wind and as we have experienced in the past, Autumn on the Mornington Peninsula can be very windy. We feel the wind's effects on our skin by the dryness of it and we may feel its internally through the lungs such as a dry cough.

Autumn dryness

In Chinese medicine the lung and large intestine are the organs associated with Autumn therefore dryness has the greatest impact on these two organs. This can mean that health complaints involving these two become more prominent in this season. An example of this is a dry cough that has hung around for a while which may be accompanied by a bit of constipation. To relieve the cough eat cooling foods such as cooked apples and pears, duck, or celery. If the cough is lingering then add lung yin supporting foods such as lamb, pine nuts, chicken broth or eggs. If there is no mucous with the cough then try some honey in hot water to soothe the throat. These cool moistening foods will also help move the large intestine to relieve constipation.

External signs of dryness could include dry lips, dry skin, itchiness and the appearance of fine lines or wrinkles. These may show up at any time of year and are influenced by body type and diet, however in Autumn this dryness may be exacerbated or present itself for the first time.

Try treating your dryness by eating moistening foods such as tofu, dairy, eggs, pork and nuts.

Autumn, lungs and immunity

Our lungs are very important for our immunity. What we call the 'wei Qi' is similar to the Western concept of the immune system. Because the lung interacts directly with the outside environment by breathing, it has an important role in fighting off external pathogens. The wei qi (protective) qi moves just under the surface of the skin. It controls the opening and closing of the pores. It also protects the nose and mouth (and consequently the lungs) from viruses and germs. To facilitate the wei qi, the lungs must have a healthy dispersing function. They push the goodness produced by the spleen out to the surface where it will be needed and It moistens the skin in this way. This is why if the dispersing function is adversely affected we see dry skin. Foods that aid the lung in its dispersing function include bay leaves, garlic, horseradish, leek, ginger, capers.

Things you can do to help build up your immune system or your 'wei qi'.
Its very important to keep your neck warm and protected from the wind, cold and rain as this is where the ‘evil qi’ enters the body.
With the hot weather now gone, it's important to protect the body from cold drafts during the night.  Keep windows shut, turn off fans, keep your chest and back covered and move beds away from drafty windows.  The defensive qi of the immune system is much deeper in the body at night than during the day leaving us vulnerable to attack overnight. 
Foods with a pungent flavour such as mild curries, chillies, garlic, onion, basil and oregano help strengthen immunity.  Pears are great to moisten a dry cough and apples, almonds, barley, mushrooms, rice and honey are other important foods to eat in Autumn.

Autumn eating...

The principle of harmony between what we eat and the season is based on hundreds of years of practical experience. Chinese nutritional therapy is an important component of Chinese medicine and truly believes that you are what you eat. The food that we consume has a profound effect on the body, affecting our health and wellbeing. Foods become part of the body after being consumed (internal) and the weather and environment have an effect on us externally. Chinese dietary philosophy suggests that you embrace native foods along with eating locally grown, organic and chemical free foods that grow in season. According to TCM the thing about the modern diet which is the most unhealthy is that we are able to eat foods all year round that may be grown unnaturally with the use of pesticides rather than ones grown naturally for only part of the year. This is the way nature intended us to eat. Eating natural foods that grow in season is what our bodies are designed for and prefer. This is one of the main ways that Chinese Medicine guides us on how to remain healthy all year long.

There are many foods that are beneficial for us to eat during the Autumn season, these being foods that naturally grow in this season.   Foods to eat during autumn are ones that will moisten and clear the lungs, rid our bodies of wind and support the digestive system. Try to eat yin rich foods and stay well hydrated. To prevent your lungs from getting too dry focus on eating seasonal vegetables and fruits including sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots, squash, pears, pumpkin, red date, pear and apple. Try to eat less salads but more soups, stews and casseroles. Foods should start to be cooked for longer, so do away with the quick stir fries. Salt helps against dryness as well as sending foods down, so start adding a little bit to your food. Steaming your foods helps support the yin by preserving the moisture content, so include that in some of your cooking processes.

Recipe for the season...

Chilli Con Carne...

Probably the best known Mexican dish there is and one that is a great favourite with all.  My family absolutely love this one, a good way to get some red meat into the kids. Kidney Beans are so good for you too, they are a very good source of folate and dietary fibre and are also a good source of manganese, phosphorus, protein, vitamin B1, iron, potassium and Magnesium... Enjoy...

  • 750g stewing steak, gravy beef, chuck steak
  • 2tbsp oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 jar tomato Passata (approx 700g)
  • 400g can crushed or chopped tomatos
  • 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • 425g can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 400g can corn kernals
  • 2tbsp fresh parsley chopped finely
  • 1 teas fresh oregano chopped finely
  • steamed basmati rice, chopped fresh herbs and sour cream to serve
  1. Cut the beef into cubes.  Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole dish and fry the beef until well sealed.  Remove from the casserole.
  2. Add the onion and garlic to the casserole dish and fry until lightly browned, then stir in the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Stir in the passata and the tomatoes and bring to the boil.  Add the beef and the chilli sauce, cumin and salt and pepper. Cover and place in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for about 1 and 1/2 hours.
  4. Pull out of the oven and add the kidney beans, corn, parsley, oregano and adjust the seasonings.  Add a little more sweet chilli sauce if needed.  Cover the casserole and return to the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the meat is tender and falling apart.  
  5. Serve on a bed of steamed rice and top with some freshly chopped herbs and a big dollop of sour cream... delish!