Friday, June 13, 2008

BLOG PARTY: Sonoran Summer Survival Tips

This months blog party is about how to stay cool in the summer heat. Alchemille is hosting this months party. Check it out on June 15. This is something I'm getting a lot of experience with right now. I moved back to the Sonoran Desert at perhaps the hottest and driest toughest part of the year. It's over a hundred every day, and it probably won't rain until Mid July.
The sun is bright and hot, and reflects off the dirt and pavement and radiates heat all night long. I was used to 60 degree days in Colorado, with an occasional sprinkling of rain, and even snow right on up to May 15. Needless to say, the climate change was quite dramatic. It would be rough on anybody to make that change.

Anyway, so here are some things I'm doing to keep cool, calm and hydrated in this hot, dry desert.

The first rule of the desert heat is to prehydrate, hydrate and rehydrate. Start the day off with a 12 oz glass of cool water, add a splash of lime or lemon for an extra refreshing start to the day. Most people are dehydrated when they go to bed the night before, and almost always wake up that way. Coffee and other caffeinated drinks are diuretic and further dehydrating. So...instead of starting the morning with a cup of coffee or tea, try the 12 oz of water with lemon.

A beautiful way to add extra moistening, hydrating property to your water is too drop a tbsp of marshmallow root into a quart jar of cool water. Let this water sit overnight and infuse. In the morning it should be rather thick and demulcent. Some might go so far as to say it is slimy. If the texture of this demulcent drink isn't to your liking, you can dilute it with more water, add lemon, lime, or dilute it with another nice herbal tea. I particularly like peppermint and hibiscus right now, which are both cooling and hydrating. I'll list some more nice cooling herbs to use as a beverage below.

Always make sure you have water with you. It's easy to dehydrate in the dry air here, so if you are sweating at all, you need to drink. I carry around a canteen of water with a splash of lime or peppermint spirits everywhere I go. I try to drink at least two of those during the day, (60oz) and more if I'm outside sweating and exercising.

The following herbs are beautiful additions to summer beverage line up. They are all cooling, moistening and refreshing. I like to sip my herbal infusions cool or room temperature rather than hot in the summer, but ICED beverages aren't a great choice either. They can be too cold and impair digestion. If you're going to have an iced drink, don't do it with a meal. Enjoy it on its own.

Marshmallow root, leaf, flower ( or other mallows, globe mallow, common mallow, hollyhock)
Linden flower
Elder flower
Rose flower
Hibiscus flower
Chrysanthemum flower
peach leaf
licorice root
flax seed
chia seed

So here are some of my favorite recipies for cooling and hydrating summer beverages.


1 pint of strong hibiscus tea
2 tbsp lime or lemon juice
sugar/honey/agave nectar to taste
1 tbsp whole chia seed

Mix all the ingredients together and shake well. The chia seeds will swell up and form a thick gel around each seed. The texture of this drink is a bit, crunchy. I really like it. Chia is is full of fiber, omega fatty acids, calcium and more. This is almost a snack. I chew up the seeds as I sip the drink. If you don't like seedy drinks....skip the chia.

Chrysanthemum Elder Rose

1 pt chrysanthemum
2 pt elder flowers
1 pt rose flowers

This is lovely and yummy. It can get a touch bitter if you steep it too long, so I usually let it steep for about 10 min before straining and cooling in the fridge.

Demulcent Pink Drink

equal parts
marshmallow root powder
hibiscus flower powder

Cold infuse the powders in a quart of water ( 1 tbsp of powder per quart) overnight. Strain off, add a splash of rosewater. Sip cool.
This is good without the rose water, and can be sweetened if you like. If this one is too slimy for you, dilute it an equal part of water.

It becomes really obvious when you go from 60 degree weather to 100 degree weather how your diet needs to change for the seasons. I wouldn't touch a raw salad with a 10 foot pole in Colorado. It was just too cooling to eat salad in the cool, mild weather. But as soon as I got to Tucson, all I wanted to eat was salad greens. Choosing cooling foods in the hot weather is a really excellent way to stay cool in the heat.
Everybody around here likes their salsa hot, full of onions and chiles, but for the first time I'm experimenting with using very little chile and/or onion and garlic in my food. Instead milder digestive spices like cumin, coriander or cilantro and fennel are good. I add lime juice as a dressing to many foods ( beans, veggies, drinks) as well.
I've found it rather easier to stay cool and calm, even when it gets hot, the air is still and my house with no AC is stuffy. Sure , I'll sweat, but the heat doesn't seem to GET to me the way it tends to in this kind of weather.

Here's a list of nice cooling and/or moistening summer foods to eat during the dry heat.
Bitter greens/salad greens
Mung beans
fresh figs
White fish
Coconut oil ( this oil is more cooling than other cooking oils)

Avoid the following foods when you want to avoid getting overheated:
lamb, beef, bison (red meat has heating properties)

Summer is the right time to consume raw foods. I'm not an advocate of a 100% raw diet 100% of the time, but summer is the time for it, if you're going to try some raw foods. Obviously eating raw fruits and vegetables in the summer in salads and smoothies is an no brainer. Other raw dishes can be appropriate and delicious, and help to avoid heating up your house by cooking in the oven. A fruit, veggie and cheese plate with a few slices of deli meats or lox is a nice cool, easy to prepare lunch or dinner that requires no cooking on your part, even if it isn't 100% raw.

Cucumber yogurt salad

1 c thin sliced cucumber ( chunks or grated work too, your preference)
1/4 c yogurt
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground coriander seed
1 tsp whole cumin seed
1 tsp dried mint leaves ( this is better if you have fresh)

Mix all the ingredients and let the flavors blend for about 20 min ( this helps rehydrate the dried mint too). Serve with your meal, as a salad dressing, or topping for rice and veggies.

Melon Soup
I always make this soup in summer with hierloom or native melons. You can alternatively make this with cucumbers if you want a less sweet blend.

1 melon RIPE, peeled and diced
1/2 c yogurt
1 bunch fresh mint ( a couple of tsp dried mint works too)
honey to taste
1 tbsp lemon or lime juice

Put all the ingredients into a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Serve in a half melon shell, or a bowl. I prefer this at room temperature rather than cold from the fridge, but its kind of a personal choice.

If you make this with cucumbers, peel them, chop, skip the honey and add a tsp of salt and coriander seed, substitute cilantro or parsley for the mint if you like.

Mung dal soup

1 c soaked mung beans
3 c water
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground fennel seed
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp ghee
chopped cilantro

Cook the beans in the water until soft and falling apart. In a separate pan toast the spices in the ghee, and add to the soupy beans. Simmer the spiced beans for another 5 min to blend the flavors.

Serve warm (not hot) and top with cilantro leaves. This is a nice dish to have for a light breakfast or dinner. I wouldn't eat warm soup in the middle of the day, unless you want to sweat. This soup avoids heating spices like mustard and garlic to moderate the heat. Mung beans are a cooling bean.


This one is really important, and has been extremely helpful for me.
Take cold showers. Yes, cold. I start the day with a yoga practice that gets my blood flowing, and makes me sweat a little. Then I get into a cold shower. I don't even turn on the warm water. Sometimes, most days right now. I take a second cool rinse in the late afternoon heat or before bed to cool off again.

If you really can't stand a COLD shower, at least take a cold RINSE at the end of your warm shower.
This practice is probably easier in the extreme heat I've been experiencing here in the Sonoran summer, but cold water is extremely invigorating for the vital force, and is of benefit to anyone. Many of the german water cure spas primarily use cold water therapies to heal all sorts of ills.
I highly encourage you to at least TRY this vital practice of cold water bathing.

If you are lucky, you have a cool river to dunk in for this practice, but for most of us, the cold shower is more practical. You can work up to this practice by gradually using less warm water every time you shower, or start the shower warm and gradually turn the warm water down throughout the entire shower, finishing as cold as you can stand.

Get up early and get outdoor activities done in the cool of the morning. I remember bike rides at sunrise in the summer very fondly. Birds are singing, coyote are hunting rabbits, the mountains turn pink and orange, and there is little traffic. Early morning hikes and walks are also lovely. Sunrise walks in the desert were a favorite summer past time for me as well.

Keep the AC off or down. Part of staying cool is getting accustomed to the heat. Try setting the AC for a higher temperature. Or turn it off completely. It might take some getting used to a non-climate controlled environment, but it really helps. Things won't feel so hot if you are used to warmer temps. And hey, you'll save loads on the electric bill. A box fan is nice to keep the air moving, and keeping you cool when you sweat. Let your sweat do it's job to keep you cool by evaporating. You can simulate this with a refreshing spritzer of spring water and essential oils on your face, neck and chest. Peppermint e.o. is nice for this.

One thing I can't stand about summer in the desert is the AC. You come into a building after being outside in the heat, sweating, and the AC is set for 70 degrees, and then you start to shiver from the chill. It's rediculous I tell you. I'd much rather a constant sort of warmth with a box fan or breeze.

So, there you are. These are some of the practices I'm using to stay cool this summer. So far so good! It will get easier in some respects when we get our monsoon rains, but then we'll be dealing with humidity as well as heat. If you live a hot, humid climate like Florida. Well, I don't have too much experience with surviving humidity, other than taking lots of cool showers to rinse off the sticky. Good luck! I'd love to hear your tips for surviving hot and humid weather.


Henriette said...

Keep your bandana moist and wrapped around your neck.
Pour water over your wrists, too.

Jump into a fountain, or invite a gardener who's watering plants to splash you all over. Bliss!

Hedgewitch said...

some great recipes and really useful information .. many thanks for this post, I can see myself popping back to refer to it often over the course of the summer :-)

"The mother of us all, the oldest of us all, Hard, splendid as rock, Let the beauty you love, be what you do. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth"~ Rumi ~