Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Indian Summer: The Abundance of Earth

This was the year for me to let things go to seed. In the past I was too busy to be bothered with the collecting and storing of seed. Anxious and impatient I couldn’t stand the thought of letting the garden get so unruly. I either wanted to clear the way for a fall garden and greedily harvest right up until the first freeze, or put the garden to bed altogether. But this year I waited. And as I waited and watched the chard took over half the garden until by mid August I harvested enough seed to plant the whole town in chard. I am currently harvesting coriander seed; sweet basil and Thai basil seed, marigold, bush bean, heirloom tomato seed and more. There are also the wild edible and medicinal seeds like lamb’s quarters and primrose. I did well to wait this year and appreciate the power and abundance contained within a seed.  There is something very satisfying about saving seed and not needing to go to the store and buy it.  It feels rich to gift my neighbors with seed: a promise for a future full of potential.

This saving of seed puts me in touch with the cycle of the seasons. I love these seeds rich in primordial oils and containing DNA. The plant devas are all about DNA because they are the keepers of the cellular blueprints and genetic codes. And they were telling me – pay attention in the waning light of summer to the magic in a seed.

And so, in the lateness of this summer season – I paused. Late Summer is the season, according to Chinese Five Element Theory, that corresponds with the element of Earth, more affectionately known as Indian Summer. It is the transition point between the yang expansion of spring and summer to the inward yin of fall and winter.  The time between late summer and early fall metaphorically speaks to the transition between all of the equinoxes and solstices.  It is when the middle way is summoned between the extremes. It is the pause between the in-breath and the out-breath at the change of the seasons when the pendulum reverses its swing. 

We are currently at such a global transition when the energies of the masculine shift toward the feminine.  It is important for us to give pause and come to center. “Center” is the direction that corresponds with the Earth Element in Five Element Theory, also know as Five Phase Theory. It is a passing phase and one that is worthy of our attunement.

Some of the ways that we can attune with Late Summer is through the Earth Element correspondences. Two of which is the flavor sweet and the color yellow. My attention immediately turns to the spaghetti squash, golden pumpkins and sweet potatoes in the garden awaiting harvest. Sweet potatoes, yams and winter squash are what are known as a “full sweet.” Many people today have lost touch with the sweetness of life. A full sweet is one that nourishes on the deepest level and satisfies the body’s need and desire for sweet.  Empty sweets never satisfy this deeper craving and leave us robbed of vital nutrients.

On both the physical and mental levels Earth is responsible for digestion and the assimilation of food and nourishment as well as information and ideas. Earth helps us to focus the mind so that we may achieve our goals and realize our dreams.  When overburdened from excess on any level, whether it is from food or information our Earth Element cannot digest or assimilate what it receives and this produces congestion instead of providing nourishment.  When Earth is exhausted, the mind becomes disoriented and easily distracted, the body fatigued.

Earth easily assimilates nourishment from a variety of sources including food, relationships, and creativity. The Earth Element in harmony enjoys diverse relationships and is able to set goals and achieve them without distraction. On the other hand, individuals who have an Earth Element imbalance may be chronically tired, lethargic, lack mental clarity and be compulsive. They typically have weak digestion, a dulled sense of taste and abdominal bloating. Blood sugar imbalances are common.

One of the best ways to increase digestive qi is with carminative herbs, digestive bitters and demulcents. Carminatives like garlic, cinnamon, ginger and caraway warm the digestive system. Digestive bitters like dandelion, gentian and yellowroot help to clear congestion and stagnancy. Demulcents like marshmallow, slippery elm and cornsilk soothe and protect irritated or inflamed tissue.

The Earth Element embodies divine nourishment and abundance.  As I stand looking out my window at the yellow finches flying through the goldenrod fields of late summer, I notice the shifting light of the season and my mind returns to an earlier time. I see women performing the ancient ritual of winnowing the chaff as they toss their fan shaped baskets to the wind. The lighter chaff blows away and the seeds return to the cradle arm of the basket.

The seeds we are saving now are the seeds we will plant for our future in the light of a New Earth. May the abundance of Earth be yours and may you enjoy this Late Summer recipe that incorporates yellow squash and the warmth of garlic and basil.

Spaghetti Squash Pesto Bake

2 spaghetti squash, sliced in half lengthwise
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tablespoons butter
1 cup pesto
½ cup walnuts, chopped
1 organic tomato sliced
¼ cup Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
½ cup breadcrumbs
Celtic sea salt or other mineral rich salt and freshly ground, fair-trade black pepper

Place the squash face down in a baking pan or tray on top of the olive oil and crushed garlic so that the garlic infuses the squash during baking. Bake at 400º until tender, approximately 30 minutes (do not overcook!) Allow to cool. Remove seeds. Scrape remaining squash into a large mixing bowl and toss with butter, salt and pepper. Make pesto, add to squash and toss (you will have some pesto left over.) Place entire squash mixture into a large baking dish and spread evenly. Cover with walnuts, sliced tomatoes, cheese and bread crumbs. Dot with butter, cover with foil and bake for 15-20 minutes at 350º. Place under broiler for an additional five minutes or until breadcrumbs are lightly toasted.

2 cups fresh basil leaves from the garden or your local farmer’s market, packed
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup walnuts
3 garlic cloves, chopped
salt and freshly ground, fair trade black pepper to taste

In a food processor add garlic and walnuts and pulse.  Then add basil and pulse. Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while processor is running. Scrape down sides and add Parmesan cheese and pulse until well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste.
~ ~ ~
Thea Summer Deer, PhD is a clinical herbalist, singer-songwriter and author of Wisdom of the Plant Devas: Herbal Medicine for a New Earth.

Learn more about the Earth Element and Digestive System in Thea’s new class, IndianSummer: Nourishing the Earth Element at Wise Woman University. This class includes four interactive webinars. Visit (website link) for a class overview and free introductory webinar.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Cream of Potato-Leek Soup

 In the exuberance of spring this year I planted a raised bed vegetable garden.  Previously we had tilled the existing ground and planted what was most inclined to grow there.  But I wanted more.  I wanted things that grew deeper like carrots, potatoes, onions and leeks.  So I hauled a bunch of organic manure from Carpe Diem Farms, and hay bales to use as retaining walls. Hay bales compost at the end of the season, retain moisture during dry spells, keep the bed warm when it gets cold and protect the garden from wind and driving rain. My efforts were rewarded with a generous row of leeks that made their way into this fragrant and heart warming soup.  Leeks are frost tolerant and can be grown (organically of course!) in the early spring and late summer for a fall crop. They take approximately 95 days to harvest.

2 quarts organic vegetable or chicken stock
3 large leeks or 4-5 smaller ones including some greens
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
4 russet potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste
¼  teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
½ teaspoon granular kelp
½  cup heavy organic cream
2 tablespoons organic sour cream

Prepare leeks by cutting down the center lengthwise and wash thoroughly.  Remove the tough outer greens and trim the tops. Add leeks, caraway seeds, and bay leaf to broth and simmer for 20 minutes. Add potatoes, kelp, salt and pepper, cover and simmer another 20 minutes. Add parsley and simmer until potatoes fall apart.  Remove from heat and cool.  Puree in blender, return to pot, add cream and sour cream and heat through.  Serve with fresh baked bread and garnish with parsley and/or toasted ground caraway seeds.