Last Thursday, October 8, 2015, was the beginning of the Cold Dew (Han Lu 寒露) Seasonal Node, the first 15-day segment after Autumn Equinox. Here in the Northeastern United States fall is definitely underway. The leaves are slowly starting to change color and the evening temperatures are steadily dropping. However, one of the weather characteristics of Cold Dew is a significant difference between day and night temperatures. For example, today the high in northern New Jersey will be over 70 degrees, while tonight the temperature is going to drop to 50. That’s an over 20 degree temperature difference! This time of year people have a hard time dressing appropriately for the temperature because what we feel in the morning is not the same as what we feel in the afternoon. The best solution is layering so that one can adapt to the changing thermometer as the day progresses. This is especially important for the elderly, or for other people who, because of either constitution or illness, have diminished toleration for extremes of temperature.
Because temperature continues to drop one of the recommendations for Cold Dew is to avoid overconsumption of cold foods, including for example raw vegetables, iced beverages, or foods eaten right out of the refrigerator. Overconsumption of cold foods, especially in patients with weak Spleen/Stomachs, easily leads to abdominal discomfort or diarrhea. These people should be cautious to drink warm beverages including for example ginger tea (adding honey to protect against Autumn dryness). They can also regularly apply moxibustion to Zu San Li ST-36.
One of my favorite things this time of year is apples! All sorts of varieties are now commonly available. According to Chinese medicine apples are sweet and sour and have a slightly cold nature. Therefore, regular consumption helps generate fluids, stop thirst, and moisten the Lungs. Since dryness is the seasonal characteristic of Autumn, these functions make apples great for this time of year. However, since apples are cold, as mentioned above, overconsumption of raw apples can lead to digestive upset for some people. Moderation is always the key.
Like apples, other foods that are slightly moistening or sour can be eaten during Cold Dew, but also like apples they should be eaten in moderation. Moistening and yin nourishing foods include Chinese red dates (da zao 大棗), walnuts, chestnuts, yams, peanuts, Chinese white wood ear mushrooms, and lily bulbs. Slightly sour foods include hawthorn, lemons, grapes, pomelos, grapefruits, star fruits, and other similar fruits.
Here are some traditional dishes for Cold Dew…
Lamb and Turnip Stew (Yang Rou Luo Bo Geng 羊肉蘿蔔羹)
- 1 lb. Lamb meat, boneless, cut into cubes
- ½ lb. Turnips, peeled and cut into cubes
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 pints chicken broth
- Scallions (1 bunch)
- Cooking wine (Shaoxing wine if available)
- Cooking oil (olive or other as desired)
- Salt and pepper
- Coat the bottom of a heavy pot with cooking oil and brown the lamb cubes over a medium high heat. Once lamb has browned on all sides remove from the pot and reserve for later.
- Remove excess oil from pot. Add a little more fresh oil and the diced onions. Cook until the onions are softened and aromatic (about 7 minutes).
- Add in turnip cubes and stir with wooden spoon to mix with onions. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Return browned lamb to pot. Add broth, several thick slices of peeled ginger, scallion whites and several tablespoons of cooking wine.
- Cover half way with a lid and simmer stew for 90 minutes to 2 hours, stirring periodically. Add salt and pepper to taste and garnish with raw sliced scallions.
Other vegetables such as carrots or celery can be added to the stew as desired. The dish nourishes Yin, moistens the Lungs, supplements vacuity and boosts the Qi.
Cold Dew Congee 寒露粥
- 100g Rice
- 30g Lily bulb 百合
- 20g Lotus seeds 蓮子
- 4-6 dried red dates 紅棗
- 10g Gingko nuts 銀杏
- 8-10 cups water
- Put all ingredients into a large pot, bring to rapid boil on high flame
- As soon as boiling, reduce to medium and simmer for 40 minutes to 1 hour, until rice starts to break up and become oatmeal-like
- Add sugar, or honey to taste
This recipe moistens the lungs, stops cough, clears the heart, quiets the shen. Being a congee it is also warming and supplementing for the middle jiao.