ACH Blog

Harvest Time

Isobel Cosgrove - Tuesday, July 28, 2020

In Chinese Medicine we move through five seasons in the year. Winter occupies the darkest, coldest months. Plants and animals, farming communities in the old days, rest in Winter by going to bed early and rising later. Bears give birth during this resting time in their caves, and their cubs spend the first weeks of their lives inside, protected from the cold.


green and red trees during daytime


The beginning of Spring can be stormy, as the early days of the season may be blown in during equinoxial gales. From the second half of March, there is a burst in plant growth and animal activity during a period of re-awakening after Winter ends. The energy of Spring, known as the Wood Energy in the 5 Element Tradition in Chinese medicine, allows us to revise our lives, plan for the next year, and make decisions about where we go next. Spring is an important time for us to make plans for how we can grow, flourish and move forward in our lives.


The Summer Solstice in late June gives us a time with the longest days, which can usher in the warmest part of the year.  Summer may start before the solstice, as it did this year. We had very warm days in late May and early June, and because the warmth came early,  plants flowered early, and we have basked in the sun for 2 months already. In late July we find ourselves moving from the expansion and colour of full Summer into what the Chinese Medics call the next season: Late Summer.



green plant


This time from late July, through August and September, up to the late Summer/Autumnal solstice is the time of Harvest, which is such an important moment in the reproductive year. This year the rowan trees already have their bright orange berries appearing (at least they are in London, where I live). Peas were ready early, and apples and pears were filling out and ripening too.


Growing up in the hills of Northumberland, I knew that Late Summer was beginning when the moors turned purple as the heather started blooming. In the North this was later, on the “Glorious Twelfth”, which is when the grouse season starts on August 12th. This is the time in the year of “plenty”, when farmers gather in their crops to sell or store for the Winter. Every culture has celebrated, and given thanks for their harvests over many millennia.


person holding red and orange tomatoes


And how do we celebrate and express gratitude in the 21st century? We have festivals, religious and pagan, campfire meals, barbecues and meals in the garden or by the sea, and picnics in the countryside.


In the 5 Element system of medicine we learn that our digestive systems are at their annual peak during harvest, so enjoy your picnics and late Summer feasts. Bears eat food in late Summer to last them through hibernation.

Let’s all make the very most of this rich and plentiful time of year by taking in the nourishment of late summer warmth and light, as well as the mellow abundance of the food available right now.


Enjoy filling up with the special qualities of the natural world at this unique moment in the year.


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