For most of us, pumpkins bring to mind memories of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and all things Autumn. So you may be asking yourself why we’ve chosen a Late Summer recipe that showcases this ultimate Fall fruit. For starters, pumpkin can help to mildly clear summer heat & eliminate dampness from the body.
Dampness in the body is almost always due to Spleen imbalance, and we may be more prone to it in late summer, particularly when the weather is humid. Just as the soil of the Earth becomes murky & bogged down when oversaturated by excessive or stagnant moisture, so too can the landscape of our bodies become muggy & sodden under similar circumstances. This may manifest as fatigue, sluggishness, depression, brain-fog, or a sense of heaviness in the body. It can also show up as fluid retention/imbalances, tendency toward weight gain, oily skin, nausea, loose-stools, cysts, or excess mucus.
The Spleen and Stomach are the body’s essential digestive organs in Chinese Medicine. If food and drink are not transported and transformed (the major functions of the Spleen/Stomach) properly, dysfunction & stagnation occurs, leading to damp and, later, phlegm throughout the body. This is often the long-term result of improper diet, eating habits (especially overeating or erratic/mindless eating), lack of exercise, or excessive worry/thinking.
Furthermore, this is a season of transition, and so our primary goal is to support the journey from Summer, the season of greatest Yang (fire), into Fall, a season mostly Yin in nature. By introducing moderate amounts of Fall foods ahead of time, we get a taste of what’s to come, and are able to adapt with greater ease. You can think of it like a hormetic effect, except without the toxicity. Or, if you’d rather, a compassionate parenting style, in which the child is gracefully and slowly guided from one activity to the next.
Lastly, yellow (including orange, gold, & brown) is the color of Earth and sweet is the flavor of Earth, the dominant element of Late Summer & the Spleen organ. As such, foods with these warm, inviting tones and/or “full” sweet taste can help support the Spleen tremendously. They offer a multitude of enzymes and carotenoids that promote digestion & healthy immune function. (Note: Sweet foods exist on a spectrum from “empty” to “full”. The Spleen likes moderate amounts of full sweets, such as roots, cooked/soaked grains, legumes, peaches, avocados, and cucumber, breakdown slowly, provide an abundance of nutrients, and contain adequate fiber to helps stabilize blood sugar.)
This delightful, cheery, delicious pudding can be enjoyed for breakfast, dessert, or anytime your heart desires really. It's yumminess & health-promoting properties can be enhanced when eaten mindfully. The state in which we exist when we consume is just as important as the food & drink we are consuming. For more how to eat mindfully, check out our blog post here! May your Earth element flourish in the simple ecstasy of harmonious nourishment!
Late-Summer Pumpkin Chia Seed Pudding for a Happy Spleen
2 cups almond or coconut mylk (or your favorite non-dairy mylk; dairy consumption can lead to dampness in the body and thus should be avoided this time of year & at all other times for those with a more chronic proclivity towards dampness)
1/4 cup chia seeds
2 tbsp. maple syrup, raw local honey, molasses, or coconut nectar or 4-8 Medjool dates, pitted and soaked in hot water for 10 minutes, then drained (you can substitute natural sugar-free alternatives such as stevia, monk fruit, or erythritol - measurements will vary)
½-1 cup pumpkin or kabocha squash puree
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice or a blend of ½ tsp ground Turmeric + ½ tsp ground Cardamom + ½ tsp ground Ginger + ½ tsp ground cinnamon (this pudding is served chilled, so we add in some warming earthy spices to balance it out & aid in the digestive process)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of pink himalayan or celtic sea salt
Optional: Spleen qi tonifying adaptogenic herbal powders, such as Astragalus, Ginseng, or Licorice (¼ tsp each)
Fresh papaya &/or seasonal fresh berries
Sprouted walnuts, almonds, or any nut/seed of your choice
Raw honey to taste
Blend together all ingredients except chia seeds until very smooth. Pulse or fold in chia seeds so they're well distributed, then pour into jars or bowls, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight. I like to prepare this the night before for a quick & delicious breakfast the next morning. Serve topped with fresh papaya, or seasonal berries & sprouted nuts for even more Earthy goodness!