Eating seasonal produce makes intuitive sense. The weekly transformation of the vegetal display at the Farmer’s Market is an ongoing expression of the local climate. Each week the colors and tastes shift to delight our palates in new ways. Opening to this culinary dialogue with Gaia reveals a complex intelligence at work that includes our own bodies, for we too are saturated by the rolling seasons. Temperatures, moisture and winds awaken responses inside us that assure us of our place within the web of life.
According to the ancient life science of Ayurveda, there are three seasons of harvest: spring, summer and fall (which extends through the winter). Each harvest provides just the right elements to keep our bodies balanced and flowing heartily into the next season.
During winter it feels nourishing to sit down with a thick, hearty stew of root vegetables. Winter cold and winds are constricting and drying for the body. Some people more than others feel stiffer, have flaky skin, get constipated and experience reactive mucus that secretes to protect irritated membranes. Plenty of healthy fats and protein are warming, moistening and insulating—Nature’s remedy
Winter is the best season, according to Ayurvedic science, to effectively store the rich nutrients that build reserves for year-long stamina. If we ignore this wisdom and the body is allowed to dehydrate in the winter, allergies and excess mucus can cause problems in the spring.
Spring’s slow warm-up opens the flow. Wet and congested earth underfoot, heavy sky above, budding green all around—we are immersed in the season of cleansing. Nature pushes up her sprouts, berries, and leafy greens to antidote the cloying moisture. Dandelion greens and spring’s bitter rhizomes stimulate our lymph to flow just as the glacial melt releases its life-giving power to the ground. Nature’s blood-cleansers and detoxifiers offer themselves to us as if willing us to be well. Along with winter’s remaining stored legumes, this naturally low-fat, astringent harvest pushes our bodies into a fat-burning metabolism as summer sweeps in.
The ability to burn fat for fuel stabilizes energy as summer offers her bounty of high-carb delights. Long days full of play, gardening, sporting and cheer are fueled by the sugars of summer. If spring went as intended, summer’s metabolism shouldn’t become a blood-sugar carnival ride. The rich green veggies and sweet fruits will provide energy and act as coolants as heat accumulates. Summer’s heat, left unchecked, can provoke rashes, inflammation and tempers, especially during the hottest weeks at the end of the season. Enter the cooling apple to rescue us from irritation and even more reactive mucus in the winter.
As the cold, drying winter comes around again we can enter into it stable and moistened or dried and inflamed. If excess mucus was secreted and left to dry out in winter’s grasp, the intestines can become coated with layers of hardened mucoid plaque that make absorbing nutrients difficult. Ayurvedic thought posits faulty digestion as the root of almost all degenerative disease. Nature does it’s best to prevent our deteriorating health. The seasons themselves provide our medicines if we are able to see their offerings with eyes of gratitude and the flexibility of diet worthy of a Gaian yogi.