During winter, people in Punjab relish their seasonal makki ki roti and sarson ka saag – heat-producing food which require a cold season and good digestion. At the same time, down south in Tamil Nadu, people wake up early to enjoy pleasant mornings and temple visits during the month of Margazhi, where they enjoy the temple prasadam of chakkarai pongal and ven pongal made, with a lot of ghee and dry fruits. There is a simple reason why such heavy foods have been eaten during the winters for centuries – the season enables us to digest them.
That our dietary patterns match seasons is not really news to us. Traditionally, we have eaten food which cools us down during the summers, and gives us warmth during winters. This pattern can also be mapped to spices.
To understand what kind of spices we should use during the different seasons, we need to first understand our seasons and the benefits of spices better.
Our seasons can be broadly categorised into two phases, Visarga Kala and Adana Kala. Visarga Kala has three seasons: Varsha, Sharad and Hemanth. The season extends from the monsoon through autumn to early winter. Adana Kala meanwhile starts with the cold late winter of Shishira, moves into the spring season of Vasantha and ends with the hot summer season – Grishma.
During Visarga Kala, our body strength is good, and digestion progressively gets better. During Adana Kala our strength is low, and digestion progressively weakens.
Each season also has its own balance of Doshas – or bio-elements – and how they present themselves. According to Ayurveda, there are three types of bio-elements or Doshas present in our body – Vata, Pitta, Kapha. Vata refers to movement, and is dry, cold, light and minute in nature. Pitta is characterised by heat, moistness, liquidity, and sharpness and sourness, and is a marker of metabolism. Kapha is responsible for anabolism, and is characterised by heaviness, coldness, tenderness, softness, slowness, lubrication. So, whatever we eat during the different seasons should correspond to how the Doshas are presenting in the body during those seasons.
Here is a quick list of the different seasons and what spices are best during each one of them.
What’s happening: All Doshas vitiated, digestion is very poor.
What you need: Improve digestion and mitigate vitiated Doshas.
Season-friendly spices and flavours: Salty, sour, sweet substances are advised. Include honey, ginger, pepper, asafoetida, mustard, clove, jeera and ajwain in your diet.
What’s happening: Digestion is better than the rainy season, Pitta is increased.
What you need: Sweet, light, cold, bitter and astringent substances which are cooling in nature as well as improve digestion.
Season-friendly spices and flavours: Honey, cardamom, coriander seeds, methi, jeera, cinnamon, dry ginger and saunf.
Hemanth (Early winter):
What’s happening: Digestion is at its best, season is cold.
What you need: Unctuous, sweet, sour, salty substances are advisable. The hot property of the spices can be handled.
Season-friendly spices and flavours: Dry and wet ginger, pepper, red chilly, asafoetida, mustard, clove, jeera, ajwain.
Shishira (Late winter):
What’s happening: Digestion is good. The season is cold but the sun is changing directions, hence spices should be used in moderation as there is an increase of dryness and Vata during this season.
What you need: Unctuous, sweet, sour, salty substances are advisable, pungent tastes to be avoided.
Season-friendly spices and flavours: Asafoetida, mustard, clove, jeera, ajwain.
What’s happening: Sun is hot, liquifies Kapha. Digestion not very good
What you need: Foods which are cooling in nature as well as improve digestion.
Season-friendly spices and flavours: Honey, fragrant spices such as cardamom, coriander seeds, methi, jeera, cinnamon, dry ginger and saunf.
What’s happening: Sun is very hot, digestion not very good.
What you need: Sweet, cold, unctuous substances are advisable, foods which are cooling in nature as well as improve digestion. Salt, sour, pungent substances should be avoided.
Season-friendly spices and flavours: Pepper, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, camphor, bay leaf and saunf.
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