Autumn officially begins with the September equinox, when the length of the day and night are equal. This has traditionally been a powerful time of year, when the harvests were gathered and celebrated. It is no coincidence that Autumn brings many harvest holidays such as Halloween and Thanksgiving when pumpkins, squash, cranberries, corn, wheat, apples and pears are ripe and abundant.
As we bring in the harvests of the earth and of the seeds we sewed in springtime, we begin to gather and turn inward, spending more time indoors, sipping cocoa and tea by the fire. This transition is another good time of year to cleanse, clearing out our bodies, minds and reorganizing our homes to make space for contemplative practices like reading, writing, self-care, prayer, meditation, yoga or Qi Gong. This turning inward allows us to let go and focus on honoring the cycle of life, death and rebirth that we experience through nature and in our own lives.
Autumn represents fortitude, strength and structure, and is symbolized by metal or stone in Traditional Chinese Medicine. This element is expressed through activities of the mind such as developing ideas, writing and speaking. The sense organ for the metal element is the nose and its organs are the lungs and large intestine, all of which rely on healthy mucous membranes for protection and cleansing. It is important to keep lungs and large intestines clean and unobstructed, as they both work to assimilate essential nutrients into the blood from the outside world, namely oxygen and water respectively. Cleansing and healthy elimination are important practices during the autumn months. An autumn juice fast with skin brushing and exercise can be a powerful way to let go of what no longer serves both physically and emotionally.
The cooking methods of the season are those that use high temperatures and enhance digestion or condense flavor. Pressure cooking heats food above the point of boiling and preserve the nutrients in the food being cooked. Oven roasting and baking condense flavors and sweeten to nurture and satisfy.
Autumn’s taste is pungent, which is light, hot, dry and encompasses acrid, spicy and aromatic foods1. Pungent foods clear the senses, (horseradish) improve digestion (ginger), cleanse the body of waste, flavor food (garlic), move the blood and tend to be antifungal/anti-parasitic/antiviral (oregano). Many pungent foods are warming and can act as diaphoretics, which increase sweating, and improve circulation. They are also useful for promoting digestion and appetite.
Season’s harvest: apples, aromatic spices, beets, broccoli, broccoli raab, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chard, cucumber, eggplant, escarole, ginger, fennel, garlic, grapes, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, parsley, pears, peppers, potatoes, pumpkin, radicchio, rutabaga, shelling beans, turmeric, turnips, watermelon, winter squash