“Set the gear shift for the high gear of your soul!!”
-From the lyrics for Run Like an Antelope performed by Phish
Last week while I was browsing the produce section of my local food co-op I wondered what kind of fruit I should buy. Of course all the options that we are familiar with as Americans came to mind, and were definitely available to me. There were apples, bananas, pears, and oranges, as you would expect. Most of the apples and pears that we eat in this country come from here, Washington State, so that is usually a good option for me. However, this time of year most of the apples and pears we see are being imported from places like New Zealand since their harvest was likely a few months ago, while ours was nearly nine months ago. Instead of looking at these fruits that traveled thousands of miles to get here I focused instead on the many new fruits that are now available with the onset of summer. First we had strawberries, now we have raspberries and coming soon will be the blueberries. The Washington cherries have been amazing lately, and while local grapes, melons and plums are not what this state is known for, at least the California options didn’t require a plane ride across the ocean to reach my mouth. My observations continued as I passed the bulk section and saw the dried figs and dates that I normally buy, but needless to say, I passed on all these usual options and instead loaded my cart with some of the rare treats available now. As the sign on the cherry bin said, “get ‘em while you can”! And get ’em I did, in fact I have been gorging on fresh fruits lately like a black bear in an alpine meadow full of huckleberry.
Short and sweet
Locavore was the 2007 Word of the Year according to the Oxford American Dictionary, so by now I’m sure we are all familiar with the concept. Evidence of this can be seen in the explosion of farmer’s markets across the country since then. Much has been said of the environmental motivations behind eating local, namely to reduce the miles your food has traveled, and to support smaller scale operations that may be more likely to follow organic methods. Of course there are also other social motivations such as knowing the person who grew your food, and supporting the local economy. From the health perspective we sometimes hear of the health benefits of eating fresh foods, which are much easier to acquire when they are grown nearby. I also wonder if there are even more subtle processes going on within the body; for example, if we eat a summer food during the winter, strawberries perhaps, then are we sending our body confusing biochemical signals? More research is probably needed on that one, and I’ll let you know if I hear anything on that subject. What I do know is that Ayurveda already considers the effects of eating seasonally on your health…
Summer is the season of pitta, so according to the Ayurveda tri-dosha philosophy there are certain foods that are better to eat during summer and others to be eaten only in moderation. Sweet is considered to be one of the tastes to balance pitta, along with bitter and astringent, and as we all know there is an abundance of sweet fruit available during the summer. How convenient! Some people may read that and mistakenly interpret this advice as encouragement to eat sugary foods like cookies and cakes, but that is not the intention. When I say that Ayurveda promotes eating sweet foods during the summer I’m talking about naturally sweet foods like plums, not processed foods with concentrated sweeteners added to them. Again, the other two tastes are bitter and astringent, so bitter foods like dark leafy greens, and astringent foods like lentils and beans are important components of a summer diet. The three tastes to eat in moderation during the summer are salty, sour and pungent.
What would Eric eat?
I’m happy to say that my kitchen is now free of all concentrated sweeteners including cane sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, agave, and even maple syrup. Not only are they absent from my kitchen in whole form, but you won’t even find these on the ingredient list of any products I buy, which is not too difficult since I buy mostly whole foods. The only concentrated sweetener you will find is some raw local honey, which is considered to be a medicinal food in Ayurveda. I know this may sound extreme, but with all the amazing produce available now, there really is no need to eat sugary foods. I’m not so disciplined as to avoid an occasional treat; all things in moderation, right? The point is that with all the sugars available in fruits, vegetables, restaurants, and social gatherings, why have more temptations in your kitchen? We are certainly getting more than enough even with a kitchen as sugar free as mine.
For further information on sugar see my earlier posts:
Our Paleolithic ancestors rarely ate sugar, should we do the same?
Agave *UPDATE* (Best oatmeal recipe ever, for dinner)
Sattvic Planet Tips
- Shop at the farmer’s market, or food co-op
- Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group
- Eat local / seasonal
- In summer eat sweet, bitter and astringent foods
- Eat salty, sour and pungent foods in moderation
- Remove concentrated sugars from your kitchen