Monday, May 9, 2011

Summer Sunny Days

The hills of West Marin that were bright green just days ago are starting to turn brown. There is no clearer sign to me that we are transitioning from vassant ritu (spring) to grishma (summer). As the sun’s effects on us get stronger, the heat and dryness will be at their peak. In this area, this changing of season is quite clear and noticeable to those even remotely in tune with their bodies and with nature.

In my house, we are certainly in seasonal transition mode. Most of the things that were helping us through spring are now being cooked with less frequently or, in the case of mustard oil, not at all. Our activities are changing. There is even more outdoor, water play. For Lily it seems that every day is now no pants day and we are getting quality moments in the early sun that are good for the vitamin D.

Two weeks ago, I was blessed to be at the Vedika sangha and have the chance to get some quality tips on how to get through the summer without too much dryness. We must mindfully consume kapha. By kapha in this context, I refer to things such milk, squash, water and coconut. It is imperitive to have these things that are moist and cool in potency (i.e. cooling to the body) or we will feel depleted and exhausted from the heat and dryness of the sun. We do not want our bodies to dry up like the hills.

For adults this is the season for napping. When my daughter decides to take her mid-day nap, I will take advantage of nap time and take one myself as often as I can. The reason naps are beneficial this summer season is because they increase snigdha / moistness in the body. Resting is better than too much exercise which is contraindicated. There is nothing like sitting on a chair outside, relaxing in summer heat. While the heat may be drying, it is important to experience the heat and not hide out in the AC, as long as you follow the basic tenets of grishma ritu (summer). Being in AC all summer could cause your body to not go through normal seasonal change which is not good for your health.

The foods which we should begin to cut down on include the pungent, bitter and astringent tastes which were so dominant in the spring. It is now time to favor moist, sweet, cooling, liquid, flowing and slightly fatty and fragrant foods. This along with the massive vitamin d we get from being outside makes the next few months the happiest time of year for many including me. For the next week, slowly introduce more summer foods like summer squash, rice, pumpkin, beets, opo squash, carrot, okra. Stop using raw onions in dishes and cook them in ghee instead.

In regard to drinks, start adding raw sugar to the takra turning it into a lassi. Maybe even add mango. Drink less chai and add fennel or toasted coconut when you do make some. Get some coconut water. I like the one in the glass bottle. Juices (no sour) are ok. I say, the fresher, the better. Favor pomegranate and grape juice. If you can find it, sugar cane juice is also recommended. If you are in the Bay Area, I have been seeing sugar cane at the Marin Civic Center Farmers Market on Sundays. If you or your kids drink spiced cow milk, use less warming spices and now switch to cardamom and fennel. It is highly recommended to drink milk at night in the summer. Instead of reaching for wine (which is prohibited), I now do milk. A pretty far cry from what I used to do but I feel so much better.

We should be favoring oily foods cooked with ghee or coconut oil, but in less quantity since the heat squelches our appetite a bit.

To summarize (with thanks to Shunyaji for the list!), these are the specially recommended foods during the next couple of months:

Cereals: Wheat, Oats, Rice, Sweet Corn
Lentils: Mung Lentil (Green and Yellow)

Spices: Concentrate more on cumin, fennel and coriander seeds or powder. Only use rock salt (Saindha namak), Mint, Cardamom

Dairy: Ghee (Clarified Butter), Milk (Cow or Buffalo), Sweet Butter, Yogurt Lassi with added sugar,
Fruits: Mango, Pomegranate, Dates, Coconut (also drink coconut water to stay hydrated), Nectarine, Plums, Raisins, Honey Dew, Cantaloupe. Keep in mind that all fruits consumed in summer should be ripe and sweet. Discard if they are sour or unripe.

Vegetables: Limes (versus lemons in Lemonade), Cucumbers, Beets, Carrots, Summer Squash, Opo Squash, Green beans, White Onions (versus red), Mint, Coriander leaves, Okra, Snake gourd, Yam, Wax Gourd, Cauliflower
Non Vegetarian: Keep at a minimum. Some fish such as Grass Carp (Rohu) is okay. Or enjoy very lightly or minimally spiced soup of chicken or goat meat (relatively clear / light soup).
Special products: Gulkand (Rose petal jam – 1 tsp )

Foods to Avoid as much as possible during summer:
Papaya – very heating
Pineapple – very heating
Garlic – minimize or at least cook in ghee. Do not eat raw in summer.
Red onions
Red Meat
Mustard oil and mustard leaves in cooking – very heating

Lastly, don’t forget to spend some time out in the moon light!! Or as my daughter calls it, moop :)


Grishma smoothie

Dates squashed with honey, raisins and rock candy

Mix with water

Put in a clay pot

Place pot iin the moon light

Blend like a smoothie

Drink !

Coriander Water

Mix ¼ TBS coriander seeds with 16 parts water

Keep overnight in the moonlight


Drink to quench thirst

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