Photo by Getty Images/Quynh Tra My Nguyen
We all have to eat, and we need whole, seasonal foods to be healthy. We need herbs and spices not only for flavor, but also to help us digest and assimilate what we eat. What we create from the earth’s harvest helps shape who we are and what we love. It sets the scope of our taste buds, priming our palates for the foods we crave and find comfort in. It provides our basic nourishment for strong bodies and vibrant minds. For me, it also provided something that I can’t really name.
More than food was given to me at the table where we dined on fish that my dad taught me how to clean and cook. The need to harvest, create, and give away was embedded in my being. The ritual of picking blackberries in August is etched in my cells. I get a little cranky if I haven’t made my annual pilgrimage to gorge at the blackberry patch to make blackberry pies by summer’s end. Harvesting the abundance and sharing it brings me such joy.
Wherever you live, there’s a river of wild or cultivated local food and herb harvests for you to dive into. Get into the kitchen with your family and reclaim your food culture. When apples are ripe, make apple cinnamon pie. When it’s almond season, make herb-salted almonds. Each season holds a craving to honor what has ripened. The following recipes feature herbs, such as astragalus, that will support your health as the fall season descends upon us.
Autumn is a wonderful time of year to eat and drink astragalus root (Astragalus membranaceus). This valuable, natural medicine increases our resilience and stamina and invigorates the vital force. Astragalus is an adaptogen — it restores energy levels in healthy people with its enlivening and rejuvenating effects that counteract the ravages of stress. Antiviral astragalus strengthens the body’s resistance to sickness, and builds up the immune system in preparation for the cold and flu season.
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As an anti-inflammatory, this amazing root also helps to strengthen the lungs and provides a healthy tonic for people with a propensity for respiratory problems during the winter. Not only does astragalus inhibit viral growth, but it also increases the activity of natural killer cells, which help the body to kill pathogenic bacteria. Astragalus also increases vitality during the recuperative phase after an illness, and it’s often used to revive immune function after chemotherapy. When your local school shuts its doors for the week because of a flu scare, herbs that provide extra support for the immune system become even more important.
Astragalus root that can be purchased in the store is precut into long, thin wedges that look like tongue depressors. Just throw two or three of these flattened sticks into any soup that you make. Add them at the beginning of the soup preparation and leave the sticks in the pot until the soup is finished. Don’t serve them; let them continue to steep in the broth until the soup or stew is gone. When you cook grains such as rice, barley, or quinoa, throw a couple of astragalus sticks in with the grain and water and let the root steep during the cooking process. Remove the astragalus before serving the grains.
Supportive fall food recipes:
- Digestive Support Sprinkle Recipe
- Alchemy Oil Recipe
- Alchemical Autumn Veggies
- Astragalus and Apple Juice Recipe
Kami McBride is an herbalist and teacher who infuses her extensive knowledge of healing plants into herbal cooking and preventative health programs. Kami founded the Living Awareness Institute for health and wellness resources at Living Awareness