A Musing on Autumn… Seasons are rolling on and here in the Northern Hemisphere we’re well into Autumn and Winter will soon be upon us. Just the other day I caught myself wishing time away, hankering after summer again and dreading the colder weather and darker nights. But alas, the old glass half empty/full debate.. I had to remind myself that when I was living in Sydney, despite the lovely sunshine in abundance, I always felt like there was something missing- it was these big seasonal changes that I really missed.
At this time, nature begins to slow down; trees change hue transforming into beautiful golds, reds and purples; plants send all their nutrients down into the roots or seeds/nuts (for us to enjoy as a final gift); animals (and humans) stock up ready for the cold months ahead. There really is something special about Autumn and this blog is a celebration of this special time of year. Think pumpkin pie, warming soups & stews, log fires, roasted chestnuts/beetroot, knitted jumpers & woolly hats, cosy pubs and a glass of red wine (full of antioxidants of course!), decadent hot chocolates, Sunday dinners with family/friends, movie nights… relish these moments. In this post, I’ve added some tips for transitioning into the cooler months and embracing the seasonal change. After all Naturopathic Health is very much seasonal!
For Pagans, Autumn signalled the final season of harvesting and food aplenty. As the nights draw in, traditionally, it was a time to take stock of the year, be thankful for all the good times had so far and also to begin to plan for the new year coming. Throughout history, it has been a time full of celebrations and worship- paying thanks to the Goddesses for the final harvest of the season and for providing enough food to last the winter. The Ancient Greeks held Autumn in special regard, they believed that it signified the transition between life and death. According to them this yearly cycle exists to teach us the art of evolution and letting go, to overcome our fear of death and accept it as a normal phase of life (whether that ‘death’ be literal or symbolic of other things.. letting go of past memories / people / possessions etc..) The same holds true for Chinese Medicine and many other Traditional teachings around the world.. Autumn is a time for introspection and letting go of old baggage. This is a time to appreciate the past but then to let it go and set yourself free for future chapters.
As the temperature starts to dip, your appetite increases, you crave warm starchy meals. Don’t worry- tis the season of harvest and abundance and a little extra ‘padding’ is normal and will keep you warm through the winter 😉 But to avoid excessive weight gain, focus on wholefoods: wholegrains instead of refined grains, complex carbs from starchy veggies. Bulk up your meals with lots of non-starchy veggies. Watching portions and eating according to low GL guidelines can also help with weight management.
Soups, stews, porridge, compotes. This is not a good time for a ‘raw food’ diet. Eating some raw foods is beneficial (especially in spring and summer) but at this time of year your body craves plenty of warming & grounding foods. Invest in a slow cooker – one of the best pieces of equipment for Autumn and Winter- have nutritious soups and stews ready for when you get home from work. Great for when you just can’t be bothered to cook & stops you falling back on processed foods. Freeze any leftovers in individual portions & re-heat as required. I like to use large jam jars for this purpose, as it is a perfect single portion & glass storage is preferable to plastic.
Seasonal Produce for Autumn
Eat with the Seasons– go for Autumn fruit and Veg. Of course in the current day with supermarkets providing an abundance of food year round, we have lost touch with the seasonal cycles of food. But that is not to say you can’t still follow the natural rhythms of nature and ‘eat with the seasons’. Here are some foods currently in season:
Autumn Fruits: Apples, Pears, Plums, Damsons, Persimmons, Cranberries, Quince, Sloes.
Nuts and Seeds: Hazelnuts, Almonds, Walnuts, Cob Nuts, Chestnuts
Autumn Vegetables: Beetroot, Pumpkin, Squash, Swede, Turnip, Mushrooms, Potatoes, Carrots, Parsnips, Leeks, Kale, Beans, Red Cabbage, Kohlrabi, Sorrel, Turnips, Watercress, Artichoke, …
Medicinal Herbs harvested in Autumn include: Rosehips, Hawthorne Berries, Roots: Dandelion, Burdock, Yellow Dock, Marshmallow, Chicory, juniper…
Harvest & Preserve
If you have a vegetable garden/allotment then harvest and preserve what you have. Traditionally, pickling, preserving, drying and making liqueurs was a mainstream Autumn activity. Books such as the The River Cottage Handbooks or Alice Fowler’s ‘Harvest’ all have great info on preserving your bounty and making some treats to get you through the winter.
Autumn Recipe: Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Soup.
This soup is packed full of healing beta carotene. This antioxidant pigment abundant in orange vegetables helps to keep your respiratory system strong during the colder months. Research shows that people deficient in beta-carotene are at more risk of cold/flu. Just the colour makes you happy.
I don’t do precise recipes, this is an approximation so play around with the recipe to suit your taste. You can’t go too far wrong with soup just simmer veg in enough water to cover until veg is tender, add seasoning then blitz. Roasting the veg slightly before also adds a depth of flavour.
1 onion and 4 cloves of garlic sautéed in Butter or Coconut oil
¼ – ½ chopped pumpkin (or Butternut squash). If organic I sometimes leave the skin on and just blend up at the end.
3 sweet potatoes
Enough water to cover
Seasoning: I like organic vegetable stock cubes/powder (free from MSG)
Cream or Coconut cream to taste (depends how creamy you like it- I usually add a whole can of coconut milk)
Flavourings: herbs and spices. I love keeping it simple with a handful of chopped sage (perfect pairing for pumpkin) and a dash of cinnamon. Otherwise, for a nice kick I’ll add curry powder, a touch of turmeric, grated fresh ginger, coriander and chilli. These don’t just taste great, they all have additional health benefits too.
Embrace the Darkness! (the dark evenings that is..) for the sake of your internal body clock. Keep the lights dim (I like to think of it as atmospheric!), create little rituals in the evenings such as a cup of tea, lighting a candle.. Keeping your house dimly lit with warm tones of yellows and oranges- just like the colours of autumn (as opposed to fluorescent white bulbs) helps your body to adjust to the new season.
REST and REGENERATE: Listen to your body, if you feel like going to bed earlier- do so. Wind down after a summer on the go. Use the long nights to your advantage: read more, take up a study course/classes, learn, take stock of where your life is going. Meditation or any other work on the mind can be especially beneficial during Autumn/Winter.
Adjust your Exercise Routine… You may feel like you have less energy and are more inclined to gentler forms of exercise. This is fine. Again, listen to your body. I find yoga is great in the cooler months, especially Bikram where the heated room warms your bones. You can still maintain your strength and fitness without pushing your body too much. If the weather is nice, nothing beats long country walks on a crisp Autumn day.
Why not take a leaf from Mother Nature’s book and the teachings of Ancient Traditions: Adapt to the seasons & use the remainder of this time to wind down & prepare for the winter months ahead:
slow your pace – relax – appreciate – be thankful – let go – plan – prepare…