THE arrival of Bai Lu, or White Dew, that falls next Monday traditionally marks the approach of cold weather in early September.
Though the temperature may still be quite warm during the day, it tends to drop sharply at night once White Dew arrives. Much dew will thus gather at night, and many migratory birds start to fly south.
Humans also need to get prepared by adjusting some habits. An ancient Chinese proverb suggests, “Do not expose your skin as Bai Lu arrives.” There are also dietary considerations, including a change in ingredients, seasonings and cooking methods.
“Autumn is very close on the White Dew. Therefore most of the health-maintenance principles for autumn also work for White Dew,” says Dr Jiang Zaifeng, health consultant of Baozhidi TCM Culture Salon.
As autumn arrives, the yin (“cold”) energy grows in both the universe and human body while the dominating yang energy gradually fades. Meanwhile, pathogenic dryness replaces pathogenic heat to become the biggest threat to health.
“Nourishing yin energy within the human body while preventing pathogenic dryness is a priority for health maintenance after the White Dew,” says Dr Jiang.
Generally speaking, foods that nourish yin while benefiting the lungs, which are vulnerable to pathogenic dryness, are all good choices in the coming season. Cane, bird’s nest, pear, lotus root, spinach, black-bone chicken, honey and duck eggs are among the most recommended foods.
Most TCM practitioners believe most white foods can benefit the lungs. White fungus, turnip, white lablab bean and wild rice stem are among the most popular.
Foods with sour taste are recommended as they help reinforce energy in the liver, which drops quickly in the season. That may include apple, grape, tomato, mango, cherry, orange and hawthorn. Foods with a pungent taste are best avoided, since they may pose further burden on the weak liver energy. These includes ginger, garlic and pepper.
Cuisine in the form of congee or soup with plenty of water are also helpful. As many people may have eaten much cold fruit or icy foods in the summer, warm and stomach-benefiting congee and soup are usually helpful in relieving discomfort.
Foods like hawthorn, pear congee, rabbit meat, turnip, almond and orange peel can all be cooked into congee and paired with rice.
Popular soups in autumn include lily’s root and white gourd soup, pig’s skin and tomato soup, hawthorn and pig’s rib soup, eel soup, oyster mushroom and tofu soup, and champignon and seaweed soup.
Apart from the general rules, TCM also poses much emphasis on the individual, along with time and regional differences, says Dr Jiang.
Of course, some customary regional foods may also give hints.
For example, it is especially energy-reinforcing to eat longans on the White Dew, as believed by residents in Fuzhou of southeastern China’s Fujian Province. The local proverb even suggests that eating a small longan on the particular day will benefit health as much as eating a chicken.
Though it may sound exaggerated, seasonal food does help reinforce energy quite effectively, according to Dr Jiang. The “warm”-energy fruit can help reinforce energy and nourish blood, while benefiting the digestive system, soothing nerves and nourishing skin. It is especially recommended for people suffering from sleeplessness and anemia.
People in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province attach much importance to eating white herbs on White Dew. Black-bone chicken with white feather is especially popular on the day. Traditionally, the chicken has to be cooked together with 10 herbs named after bai (white), such as bai mu jin (white Rose mallow) and bai mao xia ku cao (white ajuga).
Apart from reinforcing energy, the particular cuisine is effective in relieving arthritis.
Bai Lu tea — green tea collected and processed around the White Dew — is especially popular in Nanjing of Jiangsu Province. Though not as gentle as the tea collected in spring, the tea usually gives off a strong scent favored by many tea lovers.
And some people in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River still follow the tradition of making wine with sticky rice and grains on the day. Both traditions embrace the health-maintenance principle of eating for the season.
Lily’s root and white gourd soup
Ingredients: Lily’s roots (50g), white gourd (150g)
1. Wash and chop the ingredients into pieces.
2. Quickly pan-fry the white gourd pieces first and then add lily’s roots.
3. Put the fried ingredients in a saucepan with water.
4. Cook until the gourd gets soft and add salt to season.
Benefits: Helps nourish yin, benefits lungs and soothes nerves.
Steamed honey and lily’s root
Ingredients: Lily’s root (30g), three teaspoons of honey
1. Peel and wash the lily’s root.
2. Put the lily’s root in a bowl with three spoonfuls of honey.
3. Steam it above water for 25 minutes.
Benefits: Helps nourish yin and benefits lungs, dispels pathogenic heat, relieves coughing and soothes nerves.
Hawthorn and rice congee
Ingredients: Rice (60g), hawthorn (30g)
1. Cook hawthorn with water in an earthen pot or a saucepan.
2. Filter the hawthorn soup.
3. Cook congee with the filtered soup and rice.
Benefits: Helps improve digestion and benefits the digestive system.
Oyster mushroom and tofu soup
Ingredients: Oyster mushroom (150g), tofu (250g)
1. Wash and chop the oyster mushrooms and tofu.
2. Quickly pan-fry the mushrooms.
3. Put the fried mushrooms and tofu into a saucepan with water.
4. Cook for about 20 minutes, and add salt and green onion to season.
Benefits: Helps reinforce energy, benefits digestive system and helps to lose weight.