By Kristin Walker
Autumn! Isn’t it just the best! It’s got everything that I love; the change of the leaves into beautiful tones of gold, bronze and delicious burgundy red, the smell of spice, wood smoke and mulling cider in the air, the eerie frost on your breath in the fresh crisp air and of course Samhain!
This time of year in my practice marks the end of the harvest, almost all of the herbal medicine I use have been grown, harvested and processed. Everything from leaf to flower to seed has been tended lovingly and graciously. Our time for roots is yet to come in deep dark winter, but for now a deep breath of thanks and rest begins.
Autumn, for me, is the beginning of introspective time of the year, after the movement and energy of spring and summer. After all the moving, flowing water of spring energy, and passionate, sparkly heat of summer, I come to the time when I look to nourish myself through my breath and my nervous system (which is usually a bit shot after summer). Consciously slowing down my activities, and deepening my breath holistically works to enter deeper states of relaxation where I can seek to support and nourish my mind and body.
Autumn instinctually makes me enter into a sort of seasonal nesting mode, where I begin to decorate and make my space more cosy, warm and nourishing as we start to descend down into winter. The Danish concept of ‘Hygge’ springs to mind here. Hygge, pronounced ‘hooga’, which roughly translates to ‘cosiness’ is a concept that follows along the lines of ‘seeking to create a warm atmosphere in which to enjoy the good things in life shared with good people’. For the happy and healthy Danish people the high season of Hygge is Yule, and whilst I definitely keep my Hygge going, it’s at its height around Samhain.
Ways that I make my space cosy vary from year to year, but always there are some traditions that remain the same. Like always, I seek to bring the beauty and magic of our beloved green indoors, in Autumn this is more the gold and red of Autumn leaves, spikey, smooth and interesting seed pods, dream catchers and besoms made from Mugwort stems harvested and processed early in the year. The soft, warming, glow of candles together with scents of cinnamon, sage, rosemary, smudge smoke and cedar all add to the Hygge of my autumn space. Over cups of steaming hot, mulled, apple juice, and under cosy, textural throws I share my Hygge space with friends whilst enjoying the height of my autumn ambiance, the Pumpkin Pie.
The crown jewel in my autumn practice is the enjoyment, both in the making and in the eating, of pumpkin pie. The pumpkin is nutritious and delicious, and has a host of health benefits. Pumpkin flesh is amazingly high in dietary fibre, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C and E, as well as colourful orange carotenoids. These carotenoids have been shown to help the body synthesise its own Vitamin A, help aid the detoxification process, protect from oxidative free radicals and boost the immune system.
I like to take a pumpkin and begin like you would with a jack-o-lantern, by cutting the top and scooping out the seeds. Pumpkin belongs to the Cucurbita family, which includes melons and squash. The seeds of Cucurbita have been seen to have effective and potent anthelmintic/vermifuge properties, which expel and destroy parasitic worms. These seeds have also been shown to help with prostatic hypertrophy, the enlargement of the prostate gland. I usually take these seeds, and wash them in a colander to remove all the stringy pumpkin matter attached, dry with a paper towel, sprinkle with some black pepper, cinnamon and smoky paprika and then roast, on a gentle heat in the oven, until dry.
The de-seeded pumpkin then has its flesh scooped out and saved for the pie, before I turn the shell into a beloved jack-o-lantern. The original Jack-O-Lanterns were from an Irish folk custom, where turnips, beets and potatoes were hollowed and carved into scary faces with lights placed inside, and placed at the front of the house to frighten away wandering evil spirits. When I make mine, after carving, I sprinkle the inside with a protective blend of powdered and intention-powered pumpkin spice. I then place my candle inside and position him/her so that all negativity can be frightened away.
Pumpkin Pie Recipe
To make the pumpkin pie, I take the previously scooped out flesh, and steam it till it is tender. In the steamer water I like to place some pumpkin spice; 1 part Cinnamon, 1 part Ginger, ½ part Nutmeg and ¼ part Clove. After steaming, squeeze out the water from the flesh, and then blend till you have pumpkin puree. Then simply follow the recipe below. What I love about this recipe, is not only that it uses every part of the pumpkin but the pie itself is wheat free, sugar free and vegan, which means it’s guilt free and you can eat triple as much 😉
- 6 Tbsp cold/hard coconut oil or vegan butter (I like the coconut oil, but some people have trouble with the pastry)
- 1 1/4 cup of chestnut flour (or any other you like, but I like the flavour of the chestnuts, their renewability and seasonality)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 4-6 Tbsp ice cold water
- 2 3/4 cups pumpkin puree
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar (or ½ cup of maple syrup if you don’t have coconut sugar)
- 1/3 cup unsweetened plain oat milk
- 1 Tbsp melted coconut oil
- 2 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot powder
- 1 3/4 tsp pumpkin spice
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- Start with the crust, by combining the chestnut flour and salt, and then gently working in the hard coconut oil with a fork. Make sure to just get it all mixed, and don’t over work it.
- Next add ice cold water a little at a time and stir until a loose dough comes together. Once again don’t over work it and only use what water you need.
- Gently form a 1/2 inch thick disc with your hands, and then cover and refrigerate for a minimum 30 minutes.
- Once your dough is chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C) and roll out your crust.
- Place the dough between two sizable layers of wax paper and using a rolling pin gently roll it into the shape of your pie pan. If it cracks, and it probably will, don’t stress, we’re are in Autumn, just take a deep breath, and reform it once its in the pan.
- To make the filling, blend all the pie ingredients together until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
- Pour filling into pie crust and bake for 58-65 minutes. The crust should be light golden brown and the filling will still be just a bit jiggly and have some cracks on the top. Remove from oven and let cool completely before loosely covering and transferring to the refrigerator to fully set for 4-6 hours, preferably overnight.
- Serve with some homemade coconut whip or vegan whipped cream, and another light sprinkle of the pumpkin spice.