Eating For the Season

Here in Pittsburgh, we are all familiar with the traditional 4 seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter. But do you ever feel like there is another season wedged between summer and fall? The weather is 58 degrees one day and 87 degrees the next. We have 3 days of nothing but rain followed by warm, sunny weather. We never seem to be dressed appropriately. We go from drenched and freezing to wishing we didn’t leave the house in a sweater and boots.

Well, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there is a 5th season that begins in late August and continues through the Autumnal Equinox (September 22nd). This transitional season is known as Late Summer and we are in the thick of it right now. Just last week I was bundled up against the elements and today I am running errands in a tank top! Why 5 seasons? Traditional Chinese Medicine theory recognizes 5 elements of nature: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Each element has an associated season, organ, color, taste, emotion and more.

Late Summer is a short season, but it is a very important time of transition. We are phasing out of the yang energy of spring and summer and entering the yin energy of fall and winter. Late Summer is associated with the earth element. Its organ is the spleen, its color is yellow, its taste is sweet and its emotion is worry. According to TCM theory, it is very important to harmonize the natural environment with our internal environment. One way to do this is to eat according to the season. This is especially important during Late Summer, since the spleen and stomach are the organs responsible for proper digestion.

So how do we eat according to the season? That is what I am here for! In order to stay healthy and balanced during Late Summer, we need to keep a few things in mind. First, the earth element is associated with the taste of sweetness. Consequently, eating foods that have a bit of sweetness will stimulate the spleen and stomach. However, this doesn’t mean that grabbing a Kit Kat for a snack is a good idea. Processed sugar will give you a temporary energy spike but you are guaranteed to experience an energy crash a few minutes later that will leave you lethargic and groggy for the rest of the day. Instead, reach for foods that are still in season and have a subtle sweetness. Tomatoes, corn, zucchini, apples, eggplant, melon, cherries and peaches are all good options.

Secondly, it is important to remember that the earth element is associated with the color yellow. Acorn squash, yams, yellow squash, golden plums, yellow bell peppers, spaghetti squash, ginger, potatoes and golden delicious apples are all varying degrees of the color yellow. They also all have a hint of sweetness. Incorporating these foods into your diet during Late Summer will balance your internal environment with your external environment.

With that in mind, here is a recipe that is both delicious and balanced with the season!

Spaghetti Squash With a Quick and Easy Tomato Sauce (Serves 4)

What You Need   

2 whole spaghetti squash

2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes

1 beefsteak tomato

4 cloves of garlic

¼ cup olive oil

⅓ cup fresh chopped basil

½ tsp garlic salt

Pinch of red pepper flake

Salt and pepper to taste

1 ball of fresh buffalo mozzarella if desired   

Directions for Spaghetti Squash

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F

Cut spaghetti squash lengthwise and scrape out seeds

Place cut-side down inside a roasting pan

Add ½ inch of water to roasting pan and cover with aluminum foil

Bake for 30-40 minutes until tender

Remove from oven and let rest until cool enough to handle

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper to taste

Using a fork, scrape the strands of squash from the inside of the skin

Directions for Quick and Easy Tomato Sauce

Halve the 2 pints of grape or cherry tomatoes

Dice the beefsteak tomato

Place all of the tomatoes into a large skillet

Roughly chop the 4 cloves of garlic and add to the skillet

Place half of the chopped basil into the skillet

Pour the ¼ cup olive oil into the skillet

Sprinkle the mixture with the pinch of red pepper flake and ½ tsp garlic salt

Cook on medium heat for 25-30 minutes

 -Smash the tomatoes with the back of a spoon every 10 minutes

Reduce heat to low for another 10-15 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken

Stir in the other half of the basil when the sauce is ready

To Finish

Toss the spaghetti squash in the pan with the hot tomato sauce and add diced fresh buffalo mozzarella if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy eating for the season!

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