As already mentioned, Summer Solstice is the time of transition from Yang to Yin in the natural world. That said, it is the continuing time period of damp and heat in many places. Therefore, the basic strategy of clearing heat and draining dampness can help guide us in our diet strategy. After doing this however, we can focus on supplementing the body. Remember, over sweating and prolonged exposure to heat can deplete the Qi and fluids of the body. So, once we are clear of heat and damp, we can focus on supplementation. However, since this is a hot time of year, cool supplementation is best.
In summary we can generalize this is the time to eat foods that clear heat (especially summerheat), drain dampness, nourish the Qi and boost fluids. Examples include cucumber, winter melon, luffa, tomato, honeydew melon, star fruit, peach, plumb, and mung beans. This is also a good time to eat bitter melon (ku gua 苦瓜). When I lived in Okinawa as a graduate student, bitter melon was a basic staple of food since Okinawa was a very hot and damp climate. Here is a recipe for a very traditional Okinawan dish called Goya Champuru (goya is the Okinawan word for bitter melon and champuru means something mixed together). This dish gently clears heat and drains damp, but also boosts Qi and yin-blood.
Goya Champuru (Serves 4)
- 2 bitter melon (about 400 g)
- 1 block of firm tofu (300 g)
- 2 eggs
- cooking oil
- soy sauce
- Cut bitter melons in halves lengthwise. Remove the seeds and fibers with a spoon. Slice thinly and sprinkle with salt to soften them. When soft, rinse with water, then squeeze out the extra water.
- Wrap tofu in a cloth or paper towel, place a light weight (a plate will do fine) on top, and leave for at least 2 hours to press out excess water.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a wok, crumble the tofu into fairly large pieces, fry well while adding salt to taste, then remove and set aside on a plate.
- Add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil to the wok, then stir fry the bitter melon slices. The longer you fry it and the thinner it is sliced, the less bitter it will be.
- Return the tofu to the wok and stir fry with the melon. Beat eggs and add to wok. Mix everything together well until eggs cook, and salt to taste.
- At the last moment, pour a small amount of soy sauce around the edge of the frying pan for extra taste. Mix all ingredients quickly and remove from heat immediately.
Another traditional dish for this time of year is Eight Treasure Duck. This is an example of cool supplementation, since duck is cooling and nourishing. The recipe strengthens the Spleen and opens the Stomach to regulate the digestive function. It also nourishes the body and supplements vacuity. However, since duck can be cloying, it should be eaten with caution for people who have an overabundance of Spleen vacuity with damp, or people suffering from chronic diarrhea. Since the recipe is a bit complicated, I’m just going to provide a good link for everyone to take a look at (click here). There are variations on the recipe, so if you’d like a slightly different once, just type in 'Eight Treasures Duck' into your preferred search engine.
I hope everyone is having a great summer and staying healthy!