Winter is rather a complex and mysterious season. It is more like cold and darkness desiring warmth.
When I’m outside in the woods in the winter, it is so quiet, I can hear every step, every movement. I always wonder about what is inside the Earth and deep inside the lakes. It is almost like you can hear it. It is so mystical. Where are all the plants and animals? As a great Hungarian poet, Petöfi Sándor put it “Nature doesn’t die, it is just sleeping”.
Winter is an auspicious time of the year for sure. In the absence of many distractions, our life quiets down. We naturally tend to turn more inward and spend time in the quiet. With the scarcity of warmth and light, we start acknowledging them more as we bring them into our lives by making bon fires outside, lighting candles or by sitting by our fire places.
In Chinese Medicine, each season is associated with a natural element so winter is associated with Water. Also, each element has corresponding Western organs. The Western organs of the water element are the Kidneys and the Bladder and in addition, the Adrenals’ and the Sexual organs are also included. I capitalized the organs because in Chinese Medicine, it is more like an organ is considered to be the organ itself and its energetic functions.
Let’s look at what the Kidneys are like. The Kidneys provide warmth and moisture and are the source of vitality. Salty (pork, salt, sea weed, barley) and warming foods (squashes and root vegetables) are great. The Kidneys ‘govern’ water metabolism and ‘control’ the Bladder. It is important to keep the Kidneys healthy during the winter months so they can perform these functions now and later in life. For vitality, it is essential to avoid too much stress and try to rest more, curl up on your sofa and read a book or do whatever your heart is desiring.
This is a great time for eating nourishing foods like bone or vegetable broths, meats and beans especially kidney and black beans. The Chinese and many other people take their nourishing, rejuvenating herbs at this time. Of course all kidney nourishing foods should be mentioned here. As we are preparing for the Holidays poppy seeds, walnuts and pork come to my mind. In addition, the following foods are also great to nourish the kidneys: millet, barley, mung bean, potatoes, spirulina, cheeses, fenugreek seeds, cinnamon bark, cloves, onions, quinoa, lamb, salmon, trout, wheat berry, sweet rice, animal kidneys, almonds, royal jelly, bone marrow soup, butter, ghee, chicken liver, chestnuts. Oh and let’s not forget the cranberries!
Paying attention to our cooking and eating methods could help us get through the harshness of the cold winter easier. Just like the trees that move their sap deep down and inward, so too energy in humans should have the same movement. The flavors of the winter, bitter and salty (of course in moderation) should facilitate this sinking, downward moving and storing energy. The bitter foods help the body’s energy to sink downward and get the body ready to store food. Winter bitter foods are oats, rye, quinoa, kale, celery, turnips, cranberries, citrus peels. Salty foods are able to move energy inward concentrating warmth inside while keeping the outside slightly cool. Salty flavor also keeps the kidneys stay moist and healthy so they can promote fluid metabolism. Salty foods are pork, barley, seaweed, salt.
Winter cooking method should focus on storage and moving energy inward. Mainly cook your foods longer at lower temperatures and use less water. Try to avoid ice, raw and greasy foods, excessive salty and bitter foods and over-eating.
If you are looking for dishes to make during the winter, please, click on the winter ‘keyword’ on the right and you should get all my winter recipes.
- Paul Pitchford: Healing with Whole Foods
- Art: Unkown