The late summer is the least talked about season in Traditional Chinese Medicine, in my opinion. This is truly unfortunate because it is the most important when it comes to your digestive system. As discussed in our previous blog post by our lovely intern Meaghan, the late summer season is all about the Spleen & Stomach. In the new summer season, we want to see how well our digestion (aka. Transformation & Transportation) is working. We want to eat food that nourishes and encourages proper digestion. Some of the things that can injure the stomach and spleen are eating too sweet or rich of meals. Skipping meals and eating in a hurry.
Spleen wants to support you by giving you energy, so in return, it wants you to help it by eating regularly and eating warm & neutral foods. Sweet is the flavor/taste associated with late summer. However, too much can create dampness and dysfunction. Too little can not give the spleen what it needs to function properly. So, feeding the spleen/Stomach naturally sweet things like winter squash, pumpkin, butternut, acorn, etc, will help keep spleen in a neutral, substantially functioning state. One other thing you may notice is that most of these foods are yellow to orange in color. This is the color associated with earth and spleen. The best foods for the organ and time of year usually have a color association. If you remember our recipe for Summer/Heart, some of the foods were red, the color associate with fire, Summer, and Heart.
Some other great food choices for the late summer season/spleen include Lentils, Legumes, rice, corn, teff, buckwheat, onions, beets, carrots, potatoes, peaches, lamb, and chicken. Soups and Stews are a great way to get these foods into one dish. Things should be cooked and not eaten raw or cold during this time. Raw and cold foods make your spleen and stomach work overtime, and can lead to deficiencies. If someone is sick, or frail, encouraging them to eat this “Earth/Late summer” food is best. Below you will find our recipe of the season.
Cozy Butternut, Sweet Potato, and Red Lentil Stew
Ingredients For the stew:
2 tablespoons (30 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced (about 2 cups/280 g)
3 to 4 large garlic cloves, minced
3 cups (400 g) peeled, seeded, and diced butternut squash*
1 large sweet potato (450 g), peeled and diced (2 1/2 cups/340 g)*
3 cups (750 mL) low-sodium vegetable broth
1 (14-ounce/398 mL) can diced tomatoes
1 (14-ounce/398 mL) can light coconut milk
1/2 cup (100 g) dried red lentils, rinsed**
3 tablespoons (45 mL) tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more if you like heat
Fine sea salt, to taste (I use 1 1/2 teaspoons pink salt)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To a large pot, add the oil, onion, and garlic. Stir to combine. Increase the heat to medium and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, until the onion is softened.
Add the squash and sweet potato and stir to combine. Add a pinch of salt and continue sautéing for a few minutes longer.
Add the broth, diced tomatoes (with juices), coconut milk, lentils, tomato paste, turmeric, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper. (If you are spice-shy, feel free to add half the amount to start and increase from there after cooking, to taste.) Stir well to combine.
Increase heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, stir again, and simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the squash and potato are fork-tender. Reduce the heat if necessary.
Add the apple cider vinegar to taste. Adjust the other seasonings if desired.
Optional step: Using a handheld immersion blender, blend the stew for only 2 to 3 seconds (any more and you’ll blend too much of the veggies). This thickens the broth.
Scoop some cooked rice onto the bottom of a bowl and then ladle the stew overtop. Garnish with minced cilantro or parsley and a good dusting of garlic and chili powder, if desired.
Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, and they freeze beautifully too.
* Make sure to dice the squash and potato very small (about the size of almonds), as this will expedite cooking. Also, if you are short on time, you can skip peeling the butternut squash as the skin is edible. (I don’t recommend skipping peeling the potato, though.)
** You can swap the red lentils for 1 (14-ounce/398 mL) can chickpeas (drained and rinsed). *** You can swap the chard for 5 ounces of baby spinach or a bunch of kale (stemmed). I recommend chopping the greens into small bite-size pieces for easier eating.
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Article written by: Kayla H.