Using Spices in Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine to Protect Your Digestive Fire in Summer
In summer we sweat and our yang energy or heat keeps getting dispersed and exhausted. On freezing cold days you feel cold, but on boiling hot days you sweat and become exhausted. In winter in every culture people eat heavy high-calorie foods, but in summer switch to lighter food. That is in part because our digestive fire weakens in summer because the yang is at the surface.Conversely, in summer, because it is so hot, we eat lots of cooling juicy food like fruit and more raw food. Raw food is cooling, because your body has to provide the fire to break down the cellulose that is normally broken down by cooking. So raw food is harder to digest and we need to drink a lot more in summer, and water is in itself cooling. That is why in the desert an oasis is cool. It’s not the shade so much as the green shade and presence of moisture.
Which would you rather have in hot weather, and which would be more cooling, a dried apple or peach, or a fresh one? Dried fruit is warming and fresh fruit is cooling. The difference is the presence of water in the one. This is why in India, where you have to drink a lot of water, they often put cumin seed in the water, called jeera pani, to protect the digestive fire/Agni (Ayurvedic term) from the naturally cooling effect of water. You want to cool the body, but you don’t want to chill the digestive fire. This is the paradox. Digestion is a warm process of transformation, and transformation of all kinds requires Agni or Fire, what we call Spleen Qi in Chinese Medicine.In Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine it says that if you weaken Agni/Digestive Fire, or Spleen Qi, especially in summer when Yang accumulates, to be dished out in winter when yin accumulates, your will be more prone to colds, flu, and allergies. It is part of the immunity process, preserving the yang/fire. It’s what makes you strong instead of doughy. It’s yang energy that fights infectious and autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases are chaos, and it’s yang that makes order.It’s easy to “damage” our digestive fire by eating cooling raw food like fruits, salad, and beverages in summer. So one of the remedies is to create balance by adding fire to water, yang to yin, like adding cumin to water, or adding warming spices to fruit pie, or eating watermelon with a little salt. Hence the cinnamon in the below tart, which conveniently also has an amazing flavor. In fact if you look at the way traditional cultures approach food, it’s always in tune with nature and an attempt at balance. In the south of France, in Langue d’Oc, across the border from Barcelona, by November the cuisine changes to heavier fattier dishes, grounding the body and soul for the approach of winter cold.
Healthy Summer Fruit Tart
Here is one of my favorite summer fruit tarts, delicious and healhty to eat and share!
Please note: I do not measure anything, but go by eye, so will do my best to imagine the quantities I have used. But know that you may have to adjust.
- Whole wheat pastry flour, Â ¼ cup
- Barley flour, 2/3 cup
- Salt, a dash
- Coconut sugar, 1 tsp
- Macadamia nut oil, 1 Tbsp
- Milk, water, soy milk, kefir, or yogurt, enough to make a dough, maybe 1/3 of a cup. (Use egg if you want it richer. Kefir and yogurt go especially well with cardamom and saffron.)
- Choose your favorite fruit. My favorites include pear, plum, peach, apricot, berries.
- Slice the fruit in whatever shape you like. Cut some in in half, others in slices.
- Add sugar (regular or coconut) to taste. In the last tart I made, I used about 1 Tbsp sugar on the fruit.
- Add cinnamon or other spice to taste. In the last tart I used probably 2 tsp dark Vietnamese cinnamon.
- Put my cinnamon into the spice grinder with the coconut sugar, which is quite coarse, and in that way the sugar is finer and the cinnamon evenly dispersed.
- Mix the flour, knead it, roll it in my hands into a long rope, fold it over and fold it over in my hands until it’s soft enough. You could use a pin, of course, and maybe it will be softer, but the less to clean up the better as far as I am concerned. It’s also fun. Have your child help with this part.
- Place it in a Pyrex pie dish in the center, press it down and out and push it until it reaches the end. Then I either push the ends up and make a little bundle with the edges to keep the fruit in, or I use the end of the dish, like a regular American pie, so that the end of the crust flares out.
- Layer the fruit onto the crust. I like to make it pretty by alternating face up with face down, or putting face down in the outer circle and face up in the inner, like some kind of pinwheel galaxy of baked fruit.
- Sprinkle your cinnamon and sugar on top as evenly as you want. Sometimes I make it uneven so that when you have your pie you get bites without cinnamon and then surprise bites of high intensity.
- Bake at 365 degrees for about 30 minutes. I may have put it back in for an additional 7 minutes. Again this is a function of how cooked you want your fruit and how dark the crust.
- Allow it to cool and show off your art to your guests.
Low Sugar * Low Fat * High Flavor * Good Nutrition * Vegan * Low Gluten!
Have a healthy and tasty summer!