The wheel of nature turns:
in autumn harvest time,
all is slower, heat receding,
we gather in our resources & energy
to keep healthy, strong and resilient
As all things ripen and the harvest season approaches, Yang energy in the natural world gradually diminishes while Yin energy grows. Life begins to quieten down. Your body, in sync with the season, adapts as all living things must. Your thinking becomes sharper and more reserved, your breathing slower and deeper.
The lungs are your body’s primary line of defence against external pathogenic invasions. They are also delicate organs. Adopt a tolerant and unhurried attitude: fretting only disturbs your breathing, interrupts the flow of Qi energy and potentially compromises your immune system.
If you have a warm constitution (i.e. a Yang body type) you may be prone to dry skin and a dry throat, especially in autumn. Consume cooling, re-hydrating foods to reduce internal heat and nourish your lungs, eg pears, persimmon, starfruit, lily bulbs and buckwheat.
If you have a cool, Yin constitution, you are more prone to colds, and your body may get dry and lethargic because of the nature of the air you breathe at this time of year. Warming, fortifying foods that will help you are, for example, passion fruit, grapes, longans and peaches.
Sour tasting foods retain the Qi energy in the lungs whereas spicy foods dispel it. So as a general rule, in the autumn, you should go for sour in preference to spicy foods.
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Traditionally around September 8, the solar calendar point termed ‘White Dew’, Chinese families start making rice wine. This slightly sweet beverage is used to warm the body and to add its delicious flavour in chicken dishes and soups. It is also commonly used to add to the sweet soup that accompanies mochi rice balls. I use the “Shanghai Brewer’s Balls” (shown here as the white ball in the foreground). They are inexpensive and can be found in Chinatown in London.
1kg glutinous rice
brewer’s yeast biscuits (‘jiuqu’ 酒曲) available from Chinese grocers
500ml water, boiled then allowed to cool
- Wash and soak the rice over night.
- Next day, steam the rice over a large muslin cloth till cooked and soft.
- Carefully add the 500ml water into the rice, place the whole in a very clean urn and leave to cool further.
- Crush the brewer’s yeast biscuits over the rice and press down on the rice.
- Create a little ‘well’ in the middle of the rice, cover the urn with clingfilm and put the urn’s lid on tightly.
- Keep about 3 days in a warm place like an airing cupboard. A temperature of 27°C is suggested. The fermentation process needs to be allowed to occur uninterrupted, so resist any temptation to open the urn to check on progress.
- Finally, keep the resulting home-made wine in the fridge, for drinking later or for use in cooking.
450g chicken breast or thigh (skin on)
1 tsp fish sauce
1 box soft tofu
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 salted duck eggs, boiled
2 tsp cooking oil
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
300ml chicken stock
1 tsp corn starch dissolved in 3 tsp water
1 spring onion, sliced
- Dice the chicken and marinate in a splash of soy sauce, Chinese rice wine, cornstarch and white pepper.
- Remove the duck egg yolk and roughly chop the egg white.
- Dice the aubergines into cubes.
- In a hot wok or frying pan, add 1 tsp cooking oil till smoking hot and fry the aubergine.
- Add the garlic and fry.
- Add a teaspoon or two of water to help cook the aubergine.
- When the aubergine is soft and cooked, remove from wok and set aside.
- In the same wok, add the remaining oil and fry the chicken pieces till light golden brown.
- Add the egg white and yolk and the fish sauce and fry with the chicken till fragrant.
- In a clay pot, add the tofu, aubergine, chicken cubes, chicken stock and all the rest of seasonings.
- Bring to a boil for 5 minutes.
- Add the cornstarch water to thicken the sauce.
- Serve hot, topped with some sliced spring onions and a drizzle of glutinous rice wine.
100g grated mooli
3g green tea
200ml water (for brewing the tea)
salt to taste
- Add the mooli into a pot and add just barely enough water to cover.
- Bring to a boil and cook till soft.
- Season with salt.
- Separately, brew the green tea.
- Pour the tea on to the mooli to make this interesting and nutritious soup.
- Add freshly boiled water to 2 or 3 grams of tea leaves in a small bowl roughly the size of a Chinese rice bowl. Choose a fragrant tea, if you can, like Lishan Oolong, or an mellow aromatic one like Emperor Pu Erh 1998 vintage.
- Position your face over the bowl and let yourself breathe in the steam.
- Use your hands to keep too much steam from escaping.
- Enjoy this experience for 10 minutes, then you can sit up and drink the tea!
- Don’t forget, with a good quality tea, you can keep adding more hot water and brew the tea again and again.
If you tend to have cold hands and feet all year round, there may be a blockage preventing the free flow of Qi energy in your body. For a simple way to improve this flow:
- fill a muslin bag, no bigger then the palm of your hand, with some unrefined rock salt.
- Warm the bag in a microwave. Lie down on your front comfortably (eg on a soft carpet) for 10 minutes, placing the warm muslin bag on or near your ‘da zui’ point, which is the slightly protuberant vertebra just below the back of the neck.
- Do this as often as you can, ideally every day. You can also aim the hot water flow at the same acupuncture point (the ‘da zui’) when you’re in the shower!
Traditional Chinese doctors believe that cold air enters the body via the feet. Hence, they encourage you to bathe your feet in warm water.
- What you should then do is very gradually add hotter water.
- When the first drop of perspiration appears on the tip of your nose, drain away the hot water and massage your feet dry.
- Then lie in bed with the soles of your feet facing each other.
- Do this in as relaxed a way as you can, staying in that position for about 10 minutes.
- This will allow your Qi energy to flow more freely via the acupuncture point that affects the kidneys.
- After that, let yourself enjoy a night of blissful rest.
Giving TLC to your ‘tai yuan’ acupuncture point is a particularly good way to relieve a dry or tickly cough.
- The ‘tai yuan’ acupuncture point is located on the underside of the wrist, below the thumb.
- Gently massage it 10 times in a clockwise direction, then 10 times anti-clockwise.
- Do this three times. Repeat daily or whenever you can.