What does Winter signify?
Winter energy implies, cool energy. The element (Traditional Chinese medicine System- TCM) associated with winter is floating energy. To unify with winter, one emphasizes the ‘yin’ principle to become introspective, go inward and be storage-centered. Winter energy is associated with water. Water energy goes deep inside the earth; it is the root and basis of life. This is the time to go inward and hibernate. The predominant organs of the season are the kidneys and bladder and this is the time the kidney energy (chi or qi) is retained for the entire year, plus the kidneys provide warmth to the entire body. The kidneys support all the other organs, and is responsible for regulating water metabolism: it maintains teeth, bones, hair and governs the lower back and the knees. Winter energy implies, cool energy. However, by drinking excess water we place an immense load on the kidneys and make them unbalanced. The energy associated with winter is floating energy, this energy goes deep into the body and strengthens the kidneys, bladder and reproductive organs.
Winter vegetables are root and round vegetables and dried roots. Fruits are: dried fruit and storable tree fruit. Round vegetables like: Cabbage, broccoli. Pumpkin (lal kaddu/bhopla), turnips (shalgam), yams, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions; root vegetables: radish, carrots, lotus root (kama ka kakdi).
Round vegetables provide the contracted yang (inward) energy. When cooked with root vegetables (both yin=contracted and yang= expansive) they provide stable warming energies to the body. For example, when cooked together in a soup, and given winter in a ‘slow cooked’ stew style the energy we get is warming and satisfying to warm us up. Lotus root, adds to the floating energy that we seek, it grows in water and the base of a lotus and due to its horizontal shape, it provides floating energy and lots of water. Dried mushrooms: Like shiitake mushrooms are contained, concentrated energy to build inner strength.
Steamed winter greens: mustard (sarson), chenopodium album or taro (bathua) or cooked like we Indians do (in saag). Both good for fibre and water content. Emphasize all water-based vegetables that are in season. Watermelon, melons, dried fruits nurture kidney energy in these months.
Winter grains and beans
On a grain level: brown rice has centering and gathering energy, as does buckwheat (kuttu), millets barley which make for excellent winter grains. In beans: black beans (black masoor), black soybeans, black sesame seeds, some fish. Seaweed: like kombu, spirulina.
Salty and bitter foods are the best in the winter season, they promote a centering quality which increases storage capacity in the body. These foods cool the exterior of the body and bring body heat deeper and lower. Salt should be minimized as kidney energy could also be adversely affected if overused, worsening coldness in the body. Soy sauce, miso, Bitter foods like arugula leaves, watercress, endive, asparagus, top of radish and carrots, quinoa, amaranth. The outer skins of oranges, cabbage.
Winter cooking styles
Winter cooking styles should provide warming energy: like stews, soups, baking, deep-frying, dehydrating, long boiling, long pickling, pressed, pressure cooking, using many cooking styles to prepare one meal or dish. Like steaming vegetables, then using it in a poha-style which is lightly sauteed.
Using more oil and less liquid, use less spices ( too much will first heat the body then cool it down) use more herbs for flavour.
What foods can we keep away from?
Foods that will harm the kidneys are cooling: raw salads, too much fruit, sugar, refined flour, too much coffee, tea and liquids.
Yummiest brown rice porridge the sweetness of this porridge comes from the apples) 1 person
- ½ cup of leftover brown rice (make sure you have brown rice in your fridge to make this the next morning)
- ¼ cup water or almond milk (don’t use nuts if you are using almond milk)
- 1 tablespoon of mounaka raisins
- ½ apple cut into four and sliced thin and long
- 1 tablespoon walnuts roasted and chopped
- 1 tablespoon almonds roasted and chopped
- Dash of cinnamon
- Manuka Honey
- Blend cooked (leftover) brown rice with water or almond milk – don’t blend fine keep it grainy
- In the meantime, keep apples to stew covered with a little water and a dash of cinnamon
- Put brown rice in a porridge bowl, layer with apples, add mounaka raisins, and top it with nuts