Metal and Mustards

Nov 13, 2015

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons\Nevit Dilmen

The sun is shining, the air is crisp, and the leaves are doing their autumnal thing today in DC.  As we move toward the shorter days of winter, this time is considered to correspond with the element of Metal in Chinese medicine.

Metal contracts as it gets colder.  In nature, the plants contract – flowers and leaves die back, energy moves down into the roots.  In herbal medicine, roots are best harvested in late fall or very early spring – that’s when they’re considered most concentrated.

As humans, we might feel the urge to contract a little, to snuggle in with the Netflix, despite the increasing call-to-activity known as “the holiday season.”

My favorite “metal season” practice is cleaning!  This year I did a minor overhaul of my bedroom, closet, and desk, and that created so much more peace and comfort in my personal space.  Business-wise, I contracted a bit by leaving a job that was taking to much time and energy, and by skipping the October newsletter.

Where would your life benefit from some conscious metal energy?

Cold-Weather Greens

Not ALL leaves fall off the plants as the weather gets colder.  Brassicas – greens like kale, collards, and mustard greens – can thrive long into the winter and are tastier after the first frost.  Mustard greens are one of my favorites.  Their spicy flavor is considered to be very grounding in the Ayurvedic tradition from India.  Mustard greens can be a challenge to cook, though, since they don’t taste quite as nice as, say, kale when they’re just sautéed up in olive oil.  To the right is one of my favoritecomforting, flavorful mustard green dishes – the sweetness of the carrots and onions adds balance to the mustard leaves.

Recipe: Red Lentil Soup with Mustard Greens

From Greens, Glorious Greens by Johnna Albi & Catherine Walthers
Serves 4-6

½ pound mustard greens (2-3 cups)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 ½ cup rinsed red lentils
6 cups water
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Lemon juice or umeboshi vinegar, to taste

Wash greens and cut or strip leaves from stalks.  Discard stalks.  Coarsely chop leaves.
In a heavy-bottomed stockpot, heat oil over medium heat.
Add onions and sauté for 10-15 minutes, until golden and sweet.
Add cumin to onions and stir for another 1-2 minutes until cumin smells fragrant.
Add carrots, celery, lentils, water, thyme, oregano, basil, turmeric, and bay leaf and bring to a boil.
Turn heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
When lentils are creamy-looking, add the salt and mustard greens.
Simmer, covered, about 10 minutes, until greens are tender.
Adjust seasonings, adding a squeeze of lemon juice or ume vinegar.