A solar term is a period of about two weeks and is based on the sun’s position in the zodiac. Solar terms form the traditional Chinese calendar system. The calendar follows the ancient Chinese belief that living in accordance with nature will enable one to live a harmonious life. This series explores each solar term, offering guidance on how to best navigate the season.
Solar Term: ‘Summer Begins’
2022 Dates: May 5 to May 20
This is the time when the sun’s heat finally warms the earth and prompts everything to grow and move.
Naturally, insects and wild animals become very active due to the increase in temperature and relative humidity, and crops start to grow rapidly.
If the heat is too strong, the plants will grow quickly, but their stalks will be weaker. Fast growth also affects their flavor.
Clever farmers in ancient China would use up the summer tea leaves in fruit or flavored tea blends, such as with plum flowers, berries, orange, or jasmine. The fruits and flowers masked the taste of the less-flavorful tea leaves.
The heat from this solar term not only affects the earth, but also our bodies. Very hot weather can damage the heart. Thus, during summer, we need to take good care of our circulatory system by staying calm and avoiding getting angry. It’s also important to eat a healthy, cooling diet.
In ancient China, Emperor Qianlong (1711–1799) from the Qing Dynasty used to make cooling summer teas from the morning dew of water lily leaves and the green lotus seed sprouts from his palace gardens. Both of these plants are considered extremely cold in the traditional Chinese medicine system of classification. This method classifies foods according to their nature, not by whether they are physically cold or warm to the touch.
According to a book written in the Warring States period, “Yurling,” women used to drink plum juice with wine, hoping to stay young forever. It is very good to eat plum at this time of year to promote beauty.
The elderly, or people with weak health, often have a poor appetite around this time. Therefore, it is important to design a well-balanced diet for them and pay extra attention to their well-being.
This is also the season when the young ones grow the most rapidly. Make sure they’re getting enough nutrients and exercising gently.
Tips for Living in Harmony With the Season
1. Take midday naps, as they help to strengthen the heart.
2. Drink plenty of water.
3. Avoid exposure to wind after sweating.
4. Massage the temples by pressing firmly with the center of both palms. These two pressure points help clear water retention inside our bodies and protect the heart.
Seasonal Foods to Beat the Heat
Avoid alcohol and strongly flavored or greasy foods. This protects the skin from rashes or irritation brought on by the increase in humidity.
Eat foods such as bean sprouts, celery, cucumber, eggplant, eggs, fava beans, fish, millet, milk, oats, seaweed, spinach, tofu, tomatoes, wheat, and zucchini.
Enjoy fruits, such as cherries, grapefruit, strawberries, lemons, melons, and passion fruit. Red-colored foods are beneficial at this time.
Try to avoid overprocessed foods.
Sour is the perfect flavor for this time, as sour-tasting foods, especially vinegar, help maintain moisture levels inside the body and stimulate the appetite. Avoid or reduce bitter foods.
The best herbs for the season are coriander, dandelion, peppermint, jasmine, licorice, melissa, rose, and tender ginger.