01.08.2012 Wholefood

The Season of Life

Wholefood cooking for the wood cycle of Spring, with Jude Blereau

Are your days as glorious as they are here at the moment? The sun is just strong enough just to gently warm you through to the bone, and there is still a slight chill in the air. Yes, there is more cold to come - and September storms here in WA - but nature is beginning to change and the energy is moving upwards. Many ancient paradigms of healthy living based their wisdom on the cycles of nature, most notably the 5000 year old Indian Ayurvedic system. Some time after that, the Chinese looked to the Indian wisdoms and developed their version known as "The Five Elements or the Five Phases"(which I will refer to as Five Phase Theory). What we now know as Macrobiotics is a narrow slice of that original Five Phase Theory.

According to Five Phase Theory we are entering nature's cycle of wood, which has been birthed from the winter cycle of water. We can see the rain moistening the ground, seeds bursting forth and plants beginning to grow and we can understand this is the beginning of growth as nature awakes from its deep slumber.

The Five Phase Theory also equates parts of the body, certain feelings, colours and foods to each cycle. Spring is the season of the liver and gall bladder, and the feelings of rage and frustration. We can understand this emotion if we look further and know that the wood cycle is the expansive energy of yangness. After the contracted yin energy of winter, energy now demands to escape and move outwards - running through the grass or yelling with excitement and joy, for example. It is a robust, noisy, loud time, life force has re-awakened and this is yang energy. When this is repressed or constrained we can become frustrated and angry.

The colour of spring is green - green leaves, green broccoli, asparagus shoots rising upwards from the ground. The flavour of spring is sour - and we can see this in the bitter greens nature provides and in the abundance of lemons and limes - and the cooking method is steaming. Some other foods that fall into this bitter category include leafy green vegetables such as kale, collards, broccoli, parsley, Brussels sprouts, chicory, dandelion greens, endive, mustard greens, cucumber, silver beet and chard, radicchio. We see a European application of this knowledge in the long held recommendation to eat bitter greens in spring to stimulate the liver and gall bladder after the excesses of winter. The tradition of dancing around the May Pole, a pagan celebration to celebrate spring, is not only a celebration but also an outward, exuberant energy of movement.

This is the season to live loud. Celebrate. Dance. Eat. Lighten up. I can't think of a better thing to do than stop doing and take back your Sunday. This used to be a day to have a big lunch with friends or family, a time to eat in community and be a social being, to relax and remember there's more to being a human than rushing and achieving.

Why not rub a spring chicken (always organic and grass pastured) with butter and fresh herbs, salt and pepper, stuffed with lemon and roast that up with potatoes. Serve this with a big salad of greens, especially those bitter greens that abound at this time of the year - dandelion, mustard and radicchio greens, (and in my garden an abundance of rocket and speckled cos) with the sourness of balsamic vinegar and good olive oil. Because dessert is not a dirty word, I would be making a lime (Tahitian please) or lemon meringue tart. I would also be planning for leftovers. Why not roast two chickens and you have cold meat for the week (hello lunches, quick stir fry, quick pasta bake) and a little treat for morning tea or lunch the next day if you manage to leave any tart.

Take that table out into the sun and why not do your own version of a May Pole. Make music, put music on, dance, and in the words of the classic KC and the Sunshine Band, "do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight". Fertility is another major aspect of the wood season, and we can see this reflected in the pagan fertility celebrations in spring and indeed, the entire spectrum of nature.

Read Jude's delicious LEMON, THYME AND GARLIC QUICK ROASTED CHICKEN recipe in our Recipe Archive

Jude Blereau

Jude Blereau is a wholefood cook and writer based on Perth. www.wholefoodcooking.com.au