Summer is here! Following a multi-day heat wave in the PNW, we’re back to the usual June gloom, but there's no doubt that spring is officially behind us.
In Ayurvedic terms, summer is "pitta" season. Pitta is a blend of fire and water elements - think long, hot days melded with juicy melons and refreshing swims. If we keep these elements in balance, then we are able to thrive in this season and beyond. Ayurveda approaches disease from a standpoint of imbalance. To maintain health and well-being, we try and live in harmony with various cycles of nature, like the seasons. The idea is that "like increases like," so imbalance in summer looks like adding fire to a fiery season (going for a run in the full sun at the hottest point of the day). Balance is an afternoon siesta or a slow flow yoga class during lunch hour instead of power vinyasa.
To maintain optimal health, find ways to nurture yourself this summer so you are ready to greet fall with a healthy, energetic mind and body. Your instincts to play, take a vacation, and be near water are spot on for the next few months.
Which foods best nourish us in summer? Let’s start with what’s fresh - Mother Earth usually proves a trustworthy partner in wellness. I’m visiting multiple farmers markets each week, along with visits out to Ecolibrium Farms, and the offerings are abundant. Enormous lettuce heads, bright carrots and radishes, sweet cherries, various apricot blends, juicy strawberries and raspberries, leafy greens, summer squash, fava beans… Menu planning this time of year, for me, is a breeze.
I start with Ayurvedic tastes as my guide. We’re coming from spring, a season which is best suited to bitter, astringent, and pungent tastes. For summer, we maintain bitter and astringent and decrease pungent, while also increasing sweet. This helps us stay cool in the season’s heat. Below are some seasonal expressions of these tastes.
Bitter Foods - kale, arugula, collards, leafy greens
Astringent Foods - quinoa, beans, fava beans, pasta, raw carrots, peas, parsley
Sweet Foods - fresh berries, mint, squash, basil, meat, rice, corn, beets, cooked carrots, olives, fresh dairy, eggs, nuts, fennel
During the week, I’m usually pressed for time in the kitchen. Some days I head straight from work to preschool to pick up my toddler and we arrive home just before dinnertime. Other days we have a few hours together in the afternoon between nap and dinner, but my son usually wants to be outside with other kids - a 2 year old running around the courtyard we share with our neighbors means I need to supervise. Neither scenario is conducive to leisurely preparing our evening meal. So I keep it simple.
Step One - set out a little bowl of olives to pacify hungry tummies
Step Two - pick a grain (usually quinoa, rice, or millet) and cook it on the stove
Step Three - slice some vegetables (carrots and radishes)
Step Four - toss some peas and fava beans on the table to shell as we eat
Step Five - Dish up grain bowls, top with slices veggies and pumpkin seeds, and serve!
When the season encourages us to decrease stress, it makes sense to keep things easy. Spend your time outside and at the table and take advantage of a season that invites us to enjoy fresh, light foods. Happy Solstice!