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Seasonal diet transitions are a key part of rutucharya or seasonal routines that are central to Ayurveda's svasthavritta--maintenance of optimal health. In the twenty first century, however, climate change is altering the way we negotiate seasonal transitions.

We've had the hottest July on record in the Northern Hemisphere, followed by an August that, for the first time in history, was hotter than July. September saw storms and unaccustomed heat. As we enter autumn, we've seen some chilly nights and cool days, alternating with heat more suited to late summer. How do we work with this situation where we have to excpect the unexpected?

Cool days and chilly nights fit our normal picture of fall in our four-season climate. Bursts of hot days and warmer nights--'Indian Summer'--are closer to the Sharad season described in the Ayurvedic texts as part of the subtropical six-season climate. "Getting exposed suddenly to the warm rays of the sun, the pitta, which has undergone increase during July and August (monsoon season) becomes greatly aggravated during Sharad".

So here are a few key points:

  • Uncertain weather and swings between heat and cold disturb vata
  • Indian Summer greatly disturbs pitta
  • The texts recommend tikta ghee, a ghee medicated with bitter herbs: consult an Ayurvedic practitioner to see if this is right for you.
  • The bitter, sweet and astringent tastes sholud be used in this season.
  • Food should be easily digestible such as kitchari
  • Use warm soups, kitcharis, dals and sauces to help control vata

Normally, two weeks are devoted to transitioning diet from one season to another. With the current swings between fall and Indian summer, keep the transitional diet going until the weather settles into fall. On hotter days, make use of cucumber or mint to cool and calm pitta, on cooler days go for seasonal foods such as yams, pumpkins, carrots and beets. Calm both vata and pitta with apples and use apple recipes appropriate to your constitution. Since the bitter taste is the foremost taste for this season, enjoy bitter gourd recipes. And since the sweet taste calms both vata and pitta, indulge in some Ayurvedic desserts or seasonal fruit chutneys. Drink cooling mint teas on hot days and warm tulsi-ginger teas on cool days.

Some useful recipes:

For cooling on hot days

Cucumber raita

Mint chutney

For warming and soothing vata

Tridoshic yam kitchari

Squash yam sabji

Pumpkin and bean soup

Carrot ginger soup

For the bitter taste (with deliciousness!)

Eggplant and bitter gourd sabji

Bitter gourds stuffed with paneer

For the sweet taste

Almond and rice dessert

Apple chutney

Alakananda Ma is an Advanced Ayurvedic Practitioner and graduate of a top London medical school. She is co-founder of Alandi Ayurveda Clinic and Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula in Boulder Colorado, as well as a spiritual mother, teacher, flower essence maker and storyteller. Alakananda is well known and highly respected in the Ayurveda community both nationally and internationally.

Enliven your holistic health! Book an ayurvedic consultation with Alakananda Ma to support the overall rejuvenation of your body, mind, and spirit. In-person and phone appointments available. Book now!

Pumpkin Seed Sauce

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It's time to begin transitioning our diet from summer to fall. To help us in the process, Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula student Savitri offers this warm, nourishing and vata-soothing pumpkin seed sauce to serve over seasonal roasted vegetables.

Ingredients:

1 cup pumpkin seeds

1 cup water

1 small tomato, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped

½ tsp. cumin

½ tsp. oregano

½ handful parsley, chopped

1/8 tsp. turmeric

1-2 Tbsp. ghee

2 pinches cayenne pepper

Salt to taste

Method

Fry the pumpkin seeds with the ghee in an iron cast pan until they turn

golden.

In a different pan, sauté the rest of the ingredients except the parsley in this order: bell peppers, tomato, garlic. At the end add the spices. Blend all the ingredients together, including the parsley.

Cook the sauce for a few minutes until you have the desired consistency.

Pour it over your favourite roast vegetables.

Enjoy!

Cucumber Mint Raita

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Alandi Images Cucumber Mint Raita.JPG

It's a hot September and cucumbers are in season, ready to be enjoyed from your garden, CSA or farmer's market. Complement a simple kitchari meal with this delicious cucumber-yoghurt relish.

Ingredients

• 2 medium cucumbers

• ½ tsp. salt

• 1.5 cups plain organic full fat yoghurt, cow or goat as preferred

• ¼ tsp. paprika

• 2 Tbsp. fresh mint, finely chopped (leave a few leaves whole for garnishing)

• 1 tsp. grated lemon zest

• 2 tbsp. sunflower or coconut oil

• 1 tsp. black mustard seeds

Preparation

1. Peel and grate the cucumbers. If the cucumber is juicy, squeeze out the grated cucumber. Place in an attractive bowl in which you want to present your raita and sprinkle the salt over it.

2. Place the yogurt, paprika, mint and lemon zest in a 1-quart bowl and whisk with a fork until smooth and creamy. Pour this over the cucumbers and gently mix.

3. Heat the oil over moderate heat in a small pan. When it is hot but not smoking, add the mustard seeds. Fry until the seeds sputter and turn gray. Pour the fried seeds and oil into the cucumber-yoghurt mixture, and stir to blend.

4. Check seasonings, add more salt if needed.

5. Garnish with mint leaves and sprinkled paprika.

Note: Adding paprika gives a pinkish colour as above. If you prefer a white raita like the one below, do not mix in the paprika, just garnish with a little.

Source: Adapted from http://food.iskcondesiretree.com/shredded-cucumbers-in-smooth-mint-flavored-yogurt/9197/

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Alandi Images Cucumbers.JPG

In English we have the phrase 'cool as a cucumber,' referring to the marvelously cooling properties of this medicinal vegetable. The coolness of cucumber has been revered in Ayurveda since ancient times, indeed, one of the Sanskrit synonyms of cucumber is sushitalam--very cooling. Cucumber is not only a delicious food for late summer and the warm days of fall--it also has many medicinal uses.

Latin Name: Cucumis sativus L.

Family: Cucurbitaceae

Sanskrit name: Trapusam; synonyms kantikphalam, sudhāvāsa, sushitalam

Hindi: Khīrā

The cucumber is native to the Himalayan foothills in the Indian subcontinent, where it forms a key part of cuisine and home remedies to this day. It was popular in the ancient world. Cucumber is listed among the products of ancient Ur and the legend of Gilgamesh describes people eating cucumbers. In the book of Numbers in the Torah, the Israelites, during their wandering in the desert, dining on manna, hanker after the foods they enjoyed in Egypt. "We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic." Cucumbers were also an important food in ancient Rome and were a favourite food of Emperor Tiberius, according to Pliny the Elder. The phrase 'cool as a cucumber' is first found in John Gay's New Song of New Similes, written in 1732.

Pert as a pear-monger I'd be,
If Molly were but kind;
Cool as a cucumber could see
The rest of womankind.

Rasa: Astringent, sweet, slightly bitter

Virya: Shita (cooling)

Guna: Laghu (light)

Reduces Pitta

Karmas:

  • Suppresses thirst
  • Relieves fatigue
  • Relives burning sensations
  • Controls haemorrhage
  • Pacifies difficulty in urination.
  • Antibacterial

Cucumber seeds are cooling, drying, diuretic and relieve diseases of pitta and blood.

Cucumber Home Remedies

  1. Sunburn: Blend some cucumber and apply the pulp to the burned area. The cool astringency of cucumber will heal all but the worst burns.
  2. Sunburn: Cucumber milk. Blend together a medium cucumber, half a cup of organic whole milk and half a cup of pure water. Apply this topically to sunburn or irritated skin for instant relief and drink the rest.
  3. Summer heat: Blend together a medium cucumber, a handful of mint leaves, half a cup of organic whole milk and half a cup of pure water and drink to alleviate thirst and heat stress.
  4. Cystitis: Drink cucumber juice to relieve burning urination.
  5. Gout and high uric acid: drink a cup of carrot, beet cucumber juice daily. All three of these vegetables reduce uric acid; however carrots and beets tend to have a heating energy, so adding cooling cucumber to the juice blend brings balance.
  6. Sore throat: sip cucumber juice for its cooling and antibacterial effect
  7. Puffy eyes, dark circles: Apply a slice of cucumber to each eyelid and relax for ten minutes.
  8. Acne, pimples: Grate ¼ cup of cucumber. Stir in1 tsp. besan flour (available from Indian grocery stores). Apply as a cooling face pack to relieve acne.
  9. Cucumber yoni cleanse: In the Taoist White Tigress tradition of sexual health a cucumber yoni cleanse is performed weekly to maintain a clean, fresh, smelling yoni and healthy vaginal microbiome. The part of the cucumber to be inserted vaginally is peeled to allow the healing juices to seep into the vagina, while the lower part is left unpeeled to serve as a handle.

Apple: An Ayurvedic View

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Sevam: Apple

We are all familiar with the adage, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." Indeed, apple is such an important medicinal food that it has found a place in the texts of Ayurveda, where it is known as sevam (or in Hindi seb). When I lived in India in the 1980s, an apple was a rare treat, since at the time they mainly grew only in Kashmir. To be given an apple as prasad (blessed food) instead of the more common banana was a mark of the guru's special favour.

Latin name: Malus domestica Borkh.

Family: Rosaceae (Rose family)

Sanskrit: Sevam, seva, sivitikā

Hindi: Seb

Apples originated in Western Asia, a region that includes today's Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Armenia, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, and Syria--places where agriculture had some of its earliest origins. 4-5,000 years ago, the ancient Phoenicians were cultivating apples along the Mediterranean coast. In the Song of Solomon, the beloved is compared to an apple tree, "As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the young men." Clearly, the sexually rejuvenating properties of apples were well understood at the time, for another verse of the Song of Solomon says, "Sustain me with cakes of raisins, refresh me with apples: for I am sick with love."

Apples were widely grown and eaten in the Roman Empire. In Greek mythology, Paris of Troy presented the golden apple of discord to Aphrodite, goddess of love, setting in motion the cascade of events that led to the Trojan wars.

The Jewish New Year is celebrated with apples dipped in honey to offer the promise of a sweet New Year.

European colonists brought the apple to America. Apples were spread throughout the Midwestern United States by nurseryman John Chapman, the legendary Johnny Appleseed.

Chapman, John.jpg

The real Johnny Appleseed

Rasa: Sweet

Virya: Cooling

Vipak: Sweet

Guna: Heavy

Decreases vata and pitta

Karmas:

  • Brimhanam (building)
  • Ruchyam (promotes taste and appetite)
  • Shukral (Promotes semen)

Apple home remedies

  1. Debility, convalescence: Give warm apple juice spiced with cinnamon and clove to help restore taste, appetite and strength.
  2. Gastritis, colitis, cystitis: Cool (not chilled) apple juice helps calm burning sensations. A few fresh mint leaves could be added.
  3. Dysentery: Stewed peeled apple with goat milk is a great dysentery recipe; if mother's milk is available it is even better.
  4. Diarrhoea or dysentery: Peel and stew two apples; add a pinch of nutmeg, a pinch of saffron and 1 tsp. ghee.
  5. Migraine Headache: eat an apple first thing in the morning, sprinkled with salt. Follow this with warm water. Continue this remedy for a several days at a time to help reduce frequency of migraines.
  6. Depression: Eat an apple dipped in honey and follow with a cup of warm milk spiced with cardamom or saffron. Continue this remedy daily as a brain tonic.

Dr. Lad's honey apple pulp.

Ingredients:

5 apples

Raw honey to taste

1/8 tsp. cardamom powder

1 pinch saffron

1 pinch nutmeg

10 drops rosewater

Remove the skins and the core from the apples .

Blend or mash to a pulp.

Add honey, spices and rosewater and mix thoroughly. Eat this one hour after your meal.

Good for heart and circulatory tonic, varicose veins, sexual debility, arthritis.

Sources: Bhavprakash, Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing by Usha and Vasant Lad

Savitri's Granola Bar

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Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula student Savitri has to leave her home at six in the morning to make it for class. This has led her to get creative about a portable breakfast--resulting in the creation of this moist and wholesome granola bar.

Ingredients

1/2 cup coconut oil

1tsp. vanilla

½ cup maple syrup

2 1/2 cups of almond flour (you may make your own flour)

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. Himalayan salt

1 cup of sunflower seeds

1 cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup dates

1/2 cup grated coconut

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1/4 cup flax seed

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl combine maple syrup, coconut oil and vanilla. Mix in almond meal, salt and baking soda. Add shredded coconut, pecans,dates and all the seeds.Stir well. Grease 9 X 13 baking dish with coconut oil. Wet your hands and press the dough evenly into the baking dish. Bake 20 minutes. Let bars cool in pan for 2 hours, then cut and serve. Refrigerate to keep bars solid. Enjoy!

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When cinnamon is mentioned, perhaps you think of the aroma of freshly baked cinnamon buns, or adding a dash of cinnamon to your favourite coffee. Yet in Ayurveda, cinnamon, known as tvak, is understood as much more than a comforting flavor--it's also a powerful medicine for the respiratory, cardiovascular and female reproductive systems. Cinnamon is also very beneficial for blood sugar problems. Here is a selection of cinnamon home remedies.

If you are pregnant, do not use cinnamon home remedies (you may still use cinnamon as a spice).

  1. Cough, cold, congestion: Mix ½ tsp. cinnamon in 1 tsp. honey. Eat 2-3 x daily.
  2. Sore throat: Mix 1 tbsp. honey, 1 tsp. cinnamon and 1 tsp. lemon juice in a cup of hot water and drink.
  3. Toothache, gum problems: Make a paste of cinnamon in honey and apply 2-3 x daily.
  4. To strengthen teeth: chew on a small piece of cinnaomon.
  5. Home made yummy cinnamon toothpowder: Mix equal parts of cinnamon, clove, fennel, licorice root powder and cardamom.
  6. Diarrhoea: Combine ½ cup yoghurt, ½ tsp. cinnamon and pinch of nutmeg. Eat this 2-3 x daily until symptoms subside.
  7. Sinus headache: Make a paste of ½ tsp. cinnamon mixed in water and apply to the temples or the area of pain.
  8. To lower LDL cholesterol: take ½ tsp. cinnamon daily
  9. Weight loss: Take 2 cups boiling water, add ½ tsp. cinnamon powder and steep for 5-10 minutes. Add 2 tsp. honey Drink on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.
  10. Dysmenorrhoea or menorrhagia: Take 1 teaspoon of hibiscus and 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon and steep for 20 minutes in 1 cup boiling water. Strain and drink 3-4 times daily.
  11. Cold hands and feet: Steep 1tsp. cinnamon and ¼ tsp. trikatu, (dry ginger, black pepper and long pepper), in 1 cup hot water for 10 minutes, add honey and drink 2x daily. (If you don't have trikatu you can use 1/8 tsp. dry ginger and 1/8 tsp. black pepper instead).

Sources: Alandi Pharmacy manual, Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing by Usha and Vasant Lad, http://theindianspot.com/home-remedies-using-cinnamon/.

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My brother-in-law, Tony, prepared this Kashmiri recipe for us after an exciting visit to the Afro-Asian market in Ipswich to stock up on exotic vegetables. Both bitter gourd, known in Hindi as Karela, and okra, are noted in Ayurveda for their antidiabetic properties, so this recipe is great for people with diabetes or insulin resistance or who are trying to lose weight.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

4 Tbsp. ghee or sunflower oil

3 medium bitter gourds

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

1 green chili, thinly sliced

2" fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped

1 whole clove of garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon of madras curry powder

2 tomatoes, quartered

1 bunch cilantro, washed and chopped

15 - 20 okra, washed and cut in small pieces

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup of cold water

Preparation

Cut the bitter gourds lengthwise, remove the seeds, sprinkle with salt and set aside for an hour. Meanwhile, wash, peel and chop the other ingredients as indicated on the ingredients list.

Now rinse the bitter gourd halves and chop in small semicircles.

In a wok, heat 2-3 Tbsp. ghee or oil and fry the bitter gourds and onion for fifteen minutes. Set aside.

In a smaller pan, heat 1Tbsp. ghee or oil, add the chili, ginger and garlic. Stir-fry until lightly browned. Now turn down the heat, add the madras curry powder and fry for a few seconds, taking care not to burn the powder. Quickly add the tomatoes, a little water and half the cilantro and cook on high heat for 15 minutes until it glazes and forms a tomato sauce.

In the wok, pour this sauce over the partly-cooked bitter gourds and add the okra. Sauté for ten minutes. Add the rest of the water, cover and steam on low heat for about 6 minutes until the okra and bitter gourd are tender but not falling apart.

Add salt and the rest of the cilantro and serve with cleansing kitchari or tridoshic kitchari.

Adapted from this recipe.

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Saffron milk

Known to Ayurveda as Kunkuma, saffron is fabled for its beautiful colour, delicious taste and powerful medicinal properties. So-called saffron 'threads' consist of the style and stigma of the Autumn Crocus. Saffron's high price is due to the fact that it is an extremely labour-intensive crop, since styles and stigmas must be handpicked each morning. Saffron gets its yellow colour from crocin, and its aroma from safranal. It is a powerful source of antoxidants and a wonderful rejuvenative. As a spice it is used in many cuisines, notably Indian, Persian, Middle Eastern and North African.

Remedies:

  1. Sexual debility: 1 cup hot milk at bedtime with a pinch of saffron (works best if you soak the saffron in a little hot water for at least 20 minutes and add the saffron and its soak water to the milk).
  2. Low ojas, sexual debility: Fry 4-5 almonds in ghee. Add a pinch of saffron and a cup of hot milk and blend until smooth. Drink at bedtime.
  3. Poor sleep: 1 cup hot milk at bedtime with a pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of saffron (works best if you soak the saffron in a little hot water for at least 20 minutes and add the saffron and its soak water to the milk).
  4. Cough and asthma: Mix 1 pinch saffron, ½ tsp. trikatu and 1 tsp. honey. Eat this mixture 2-3 times daily.
  5. Haemorroids: Take 1pinch saffron, ¼ tsp. triphala and 1Tbsp aloe vera 2x daily.
  6. Poor memory, mild cognitive impairment: Saffron brahmi milk--Soak 1 pinch saffron in a little hot water for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile bring 1 cup milk to the boil and add 1 tsp brahmi (gotu kola). Let steep for 10 minutes and strain. Now and add the saffron and its soak water to the milk. Drink this preparation at bedtime.
  7. For conjunctivitis or burning eyes: Soak a pinch of saffron in ¼ cup water for 20 minutes. Now take 10 drops of this saffron water and 10 drops rosewater and dilute in half an ounce of distilled water. Put 2 drops in each eye. (Saffron water can be stored in the refrigerator in a screw top glass jar for a few days).
  8. Third trimester of pregnancy: Soak 2-3 threads of saffron in boiling milk. Cool until drinkable and consume at bedtime.
  9. Wound healing: Apply saffron paste to the wound.
  10. Stomatitis, glossitis:Massage the gums with saffron to reduce soreness and inflammation of the mouth and the tongue.
  11. Headache: Mix saffron paste with 5 drops sandalwood oil mixture and apply on the forehead.

Compiled from various sources including http://www.ayurhelp.com/articles/ayurveda-description-kumkuma-saffron-crocus-sativus and Ayurvedic cooking for Self-Healing by Usha and Vasant Lad.

For some saffron recipes see: Persian Rice with Chard, Golden Harvest Rice.

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Saffron water

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My brother-in-law Tony is an accomplished chef and enjoys experimenting for an appreciative audience, for which we qualify. Tony wanted to create a sabji featuring Welsh laver, a seaweed variety beloved in Wales. Known in Ireland as slake, laver is a type of porphyra and is thus closely related to nori (same genus, different species). For those of us who don't have access to Welsh laver, nori is a great substitute for making this delicious recipe. Porphyra is high in minerals, particularly iodine and iron, a plus for thyroid health and blood building.

Seaweed Sabji

Serves 3-4

1 Tbsp. ghee

½ tsp. fenugreek

½ tsp. cumin seeds

1tsp turmeric

1 lb 'yams' (orange-fleshed sweet potato), cubed

1T garlic-ginger paste

4 oz laver (substitute: 4oz nori strips, torn up into small pieces)

½ cup water

½ Tbsp chopped cilantro (coriander leaves)

Salt and pepper to taste.

In a wok, heat ghee, add seeds and allow to splutter. Add the turmeric and then the cubed yams ands tir-fry on medium heat for 5 minutes. Now add the garlic ginger paste, the laver or nori and the water and simmer until the yams (sweet potato) are tender but not fallen apart or mushy. And the cilantro, season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with rice and dal. Enjoy!

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