September Diet: The Vegetable Harvest

Every time the seasons change I like to remind everyone to change their diet accordingly. We’re healthiest when we eat the foods that are being harvested in the present, and in the area where we live, whenever and wherever that may be. Currently, it’s late summer, soon to be fall, and if we want to maintain our health and ward off illness, we should be eating late–summer fruits and vegetables like, well, almost every one you can think of. Along with August, September is the big harvest month in this part of the world, which means it’s a good time to have a nutrient–rich, vegetable–heavy diet. When the cold part of the year sets in, you’ll be glad you did! Most farmers’ markets should have at least some of the following available: string beans, beets and beet greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, collard greens, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, kale, lettuce, leeks, mesculn, onions, peas, peppers, potatoes, radishes, scallions, spinach, summer squash, swiss chard, tomatoes and turnips. Blueberries, cantaloupes, peaches, plums, raspberries and watermelons should still be available, and apples are ready now.

Later in the year some vegetables will still be available, like winter squash and pumpkins, root vegetables such as turnips, beets, and carrots, and hardy leafy greens, but there won’t be the same abundance there is today. Sure, you can go to the supermarket and get any vegetable you want, but it won’t have been grown locally. Instead, it will have been flown hundreds of miles from a warmer part of the world to get to you, it won’t be as fresh, and it will have used up a lot of fossil fuels along the way. In fact, it’s my opinion that the widespread prejudice against vegetables partly stems from the fact that we don’t eat them fresh, local and seasonal; instead, they’re canned, frozen, or shipped halfway across the world. All these processes diminish the flavor and nutrition of vegetables, and they increase the likelihood that we’ll eat them out of season, when our bodies aren’t even expecting them.

Late summer is a short season and a time of transition; the fulcrum that balances summer and winter. It is a brief window where many different foods are harvested at once. In traditional Chinese medicine, this time of year is associated with the Earth element. The digestive system (stomach, spleen, pancreas) and female menstrual cycles are also associated with the Earth element, so this is a good time to bring those systems into balance. The foods associated with Earth, sweet vegetables, dairy products, and natural sweeteners, can make or break proper digestion and menstruation. The refined carbohydrates we consume, such as high fructose corn syrup, alcohol, and white flour, overwork the pancreas and create an over–acidic environment in the digestive tract; diabetes and acid reflux are among the consequences. Pasteurized milk with added hormones is often responsible for the severe cramps and extreme mood swings in menstruating women. At this time of year especially, do your best drink either organic or raw milk and to consume complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, the sweet vegetables being harvested now, and natural sweeteners like raw honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, barley malt, and molasses. You’ll definitely have a much more peaceful transition to fall!