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Food Matters

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Herbal Harvest: Autumnal Equinox Recipes

by Ariel Tilson

Tags: Autumnal Equinox, Recipes, Harvest, Moon Cake, Grape Cake, Autumn, Fall,


Fall has finally descended on the Northern Hemisphere. Not only have temperatures cooled, leaves changed color and daylight hours shortened, but last Tuesday marked the autumnal equinox. Although it’s not true that the day and night were exactly equal in length, the sun did rise due east and set due west.

Although you can’t actually witness this phenomenon, you can still celebrate its significance. Around the world, festivities honoring the onset of winter are held this time of year to reap the rewards of hard-earned harvests. 

harvest moon
Photo by Rubber Slippers in Italy/Courtesy Flickr

In East Asia, the Chinese bake moon cakes made from lotus and sesame seeds as part of a 3,000-year old tradition called the Mid-Autumn or Moon Festival. The ritual of eating moon cakes symbolizes, among other things, greeting cooler weather and celebrating the end of the harvest season. If you’d like to celebrate the autumnal equinox moon cake-style, try your hand at this impressive moon cake recipe. The recipe mixes ingredients, which include lotus seed paste and finely chopped walnuts, to create the traditional delicacy.

moon cake
Photo by focus on aperture/Courtesy Flickr 

Before the industrial era shifted us away from farming and seasonal work, the fall season was itself referred to as “harvest” in England. And around the time of the autumnal equinox in Western Europe, harvest home festivals featured feasts of wheat, corn and seeds. This recipe for Rosetta Clarkson's Gingerbread with Coriander Seeds is a delicious example of harvest feasting. It mixes coriander, ginger and cinnamon to create a tasty dessert.

In ancient Greece, Oschophoria was a celebration devoted to the grape harvest, but if you’re not up for Dionysian drinking, try this recipe for harvest grape cake instead.

grape cake
Photo by JimmyY2K/Courtesy Flickr 

Also, make sure to check out more great harvest recipes from Kris Wetherbee’s latest article, 10 Thanksgiving Day Recipes

Did you do anything special for the autumnal equinox or do you have any favorite harvest recipes? Leave me a comment and let me know.