Winter is the most Yin time of year, the time of year when the sun begins to disappear and the world begins to hibernate. This hibernation means that our exposure to the sun becomes less and less – both due to the fact that the days are shorter as well as the fact that we tend to spend more time inside under a doona napping. Even though rest is super important, the lack of Vitamin D can play havoc on our immune systems. This makes us more susceptible to colds, flus, cases of the sniffles and generally being run down. But what if I told you that you could increase your immune system from the couch? Well, not quite. You’ll have to walk to the kitchen. But you can sit on the couch while the soup is cooking and that’s kinda the same thing, right?
This soup is super easy to make. It can either be prepared ahead and portioned off into 1-2 cup containers to be frozen or it can be made super quickly if you’re in need of a pick me up. If you feel a cold coming on in the morning, stick all the ingredients in the slow cooker before work and by the time you come home it will be cooked and ready to give you an immune-boost!
This soup can be added to almost anything as a base. Simmer extra veggies in it to make a lovely and easy soup, cook your grains or beans in it or use it as a base for stews.
10 dried shitake mushrooms,
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
3-5 cloves of garlic
3-5 spring onions, finely chopped
2-3 pieces of Astragalus*
2 sticks of celery roughly chopped
2 carrots roughly chopped
2 litres water
A big bunch of coriander stems removed and roughly chopped.
Salt + Pepper
*Astragalus root is available in packages from Chinese grocery stores. I’ve seen it being sold on King Street (Newtown), the giant IGA at Haymarket and I’m fairly sure I’ve also seen it on Marrickville road. If in doubt, just ask your local Acupuncturist.
HOW TO – For vegetarians
Cover the shitake mushrooms in hot water for 10 minutes to rehydrate, then drain them, rinse and roughly chop them. Set them aside for now.
Place the ginger, garlic, spring onions in a large pot and saute with a big spoonful of coconut oil until they’re fragrant. Add in the carrots and celery and sauté a few further minutes before adding the shitakes and Astragalus root. Cover with water and bring it to the boil before turning it down to simmer. Simmer for 1-1.5 hours until everything is soft and delicious.
You can either then wait for the soup to cool before straining it to use as a stock OR eat it as is, sprinkled with the chopped coriander and lemon wedges. If you’re going to eat it all as is, then remove the Astragalus root. It doesn’t add much taste to the soup itself but it’s super chewy and you don’t want to deal with it getting stuck in your teeth.
HOW TO – For meat-eaters
Follow the above steps however add in ½ kilo of organic chicken wings or drumsticks. Once the soup is cooked and cooled, make sure to remove the meat from the bones. Add the meat back into the soup and discard the bones with the Astragalus root. This turns it into an almost Bone Broth kind of soup (you can read more about that here…).
ASTRAGALUS ROOT: this funny old root has been used for YEARS (like, a couple of thousand) in Chinese Medicine. It has been especially vital in moderating respiratory diseases (including colds and flus) and is fantastic at helping when you’ve sort of recovered from an illness which is lingering. Astragalus contains saponins, flavonoids and polysaccharides, all of which help to modulate and strengthen the immune system. Awesome, huh? Also, you barely taste it in your soup.
GINGER, GARLIC & ONIONS: these are all extremely powerful immune-regulating foods. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, they’re all warming and pungent which helps to disperse illnesses. From a Biomedical perspective they are filled with sulphur-containing amino acids and phytochemicals to help boost your immune system. They’re like tiny household immune boosters, because honestly, who doesn’t have a bit or garlic or onion hanging around in their vege draw?
SHITAKE MUSHROOMS: these lil mushrooms are chocker full of B Vitamins and are an excellent source of Vitamin D. This is essential in Winter when our normal source of Vitamin D (the sun) is often hiding away. They also have specific anti-viral properties, which will help to fight away any nasty viruses that might be lurking.
And that’s it, folks! Give this immune-boosting soup a go and let me know how it works out for you.
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PLEASE NOTE: In saying all of this, its super important to listen to your body. What does it want? What is it telling you? Is it saying that you need something in particular? It’s really important to gather information to make the choices that are right for you and your body. This information isn’t personal medical advice – rather it’s a guideline on ways that could help you to live a healthier, happier lifestyle. It is always wise to consult with a qualified health practitioner before starting any new herbs, supplements or dietary and lifestyle programs.