This past week the villages and towns in France in the grocery shops, florists, the supermarket car parks, village squares pop up stalls are adorned with potted Chrysanthamums in a rainbow of colours.
They are being purchased by passers-by and local people to be transported to graves of family and friends. Temporary plastic tents have been erected over the past week to preserve these important floral gifts. These special flowers represent the memory and respect for the loved ones who have died. ” La Toussaint is closely related to the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and Chrysanthamums in Latin cultures symbolises death.
I recall the anxiety and distress on my Francophile husband’s face when a floral gift from well wishers in the form of a large floral display of crysanthamums arrived as he came around from major surgery in the days, when flowers were common place on a hospital ward and he whispered “please take those away, I am not dead yet”
Today these flowers along with jarred lighted candles find there way to the cemeteries transforming these cold,grey,silent cities into a blaze of colour and a hive of activity.
Despite being a secular country there is celebration on All Saints’ Day, or La Toussaint,which is a Christian day of remembrance of all saints and martyrs, including those saints who don’t have a feast day named after them. It is also known as All Hallows Day and The Feast of All Saints and is celebrated every year on 1 November. All Saints’ Day actually begins at sundown on the evening before – Hallowe’en, or All Hallow’s Eve. It is followed by All Souls’ Day on 2 November.
All Saints’ Day is a public holiday in France with government offices, banks, shops and schools closed. Many people attend church services to celebrate This day.
All Saints’ Day is also an opportunity for many people to spend time with family members and close friends. This holiday falls during the autumn school holidays, it is a popular time for families to take a short vacation or to visit relatives living in other areas.
Following my interest in Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM) Chrysanthamum was a herb I studied the use of of its own or in a formula with other herbs.
Chrysanthemum flower as a medicinal herb was first mentioned in the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, and has been cultivated by the Chinese for over 3,000 years. The medicinal plant from China is sometimes referred to as Chrysanthemum sinensis, but most modern Chinese material medica texts now classify it as Chrysanthemum moriflolium, the common garden mum or “florist’s chrysanthemum”. All Chrysanthemum flowers can be used medicinally, though in China, those grown in Anhui province are considered to be the best quality.
The Chinese herb usually the white crysanthamum flower (Ju Hua (菊花))
main functions are to:-
- Dispel wind, clear heat – for early stage wind-heat such as colds with fever, headache and red eyes
- Cool the Liver, clear and brighten the eyes – for eyes that are red, dry, swollen and painful
- Calm the Liver, extinguish wind, descend Liver yang – in cases of headache and dizziness, or high blood pressure.
The white flowering mums are reported to be higher in flavinoid glycosides and additional active ingredients. Traditionally the white flowers are said to be stronger at calming the Liver and clearing the eyes, while the yellow flowers are stronger at dispelling wind-heat and draining heat toxin.
It is an ideal tea to have at the end of a stressful day and the
benefits of long-term consumption of Chrysanthemum tea have been recognized throughout the history of Chinese medicine.
It is said to prevent ageing and to be a favorite of Taoists and poets, though the benefits are achieved only with drinking the tea over a long period of time. In the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, it says, “taken over a long time it facilitates the qi and blood, lightens the body and prevents ageing.” Chen Shi-Dou explains: “Sweet Ju Hua is light and clear in flavor and nature, and its effect is particularly leisurely, it must be taken over a long time before it starts to take effect, one cannot just take more to try for earlier results.”
Probably the most common combination is with Gou Qi Zi (Goji berries), which nourishes the Liver and Kidney yin, benefits the essence and brightens the eyes. Together, Ju Hua and Gou Qi Zi make a tasty tea that treats dizziness, eyestrain, improves vision, and soothes the eyes.
In a cup, add hot water to about 5 grams of Ju Hua, and 5 grams of Gou Qi Zi. Cover and steep for five or more minutes. The tea is visually beautiful and tastes nice as well.
I enjoy a mixture of camomile and chrysanthemum tea at night and this combination calms and relaxes the muscles I can recommend this as a pleasant nightcap!
Alongside the Chrysanthamums piled up are the abundance of pumpkins waiting to be made into soup and pies. These grow in abundance in this part of France and now ripe and ready for consumption.
Pumpkin refers to certain types of squash, most commonly those of Cucurbita pepo, that are round, with smooth, slightly ribbed skin and deep yellow to orange coloration.
They are thought to have originated in North America and the oldest evidence, pumpkin-related seeds dating between 7000 and 5500 BC, were found in Mexico.
It is a very low calorie vegetable, 100 g fruit provides just 26 calories and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol; however, it is rich in dietary fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins. The vegetable is one of the food items recommended by dieticians in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.
Pumpkin is a storehouse of many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-A, vitamin-C and vitamin-E.
With 7384 mg per 100 g, it is one of the vegetables in the Cucurbitaceae family featuring highest levels of vitamin-A, providing about 246% of RDA. Vitamin A is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and is required by the body for maintaining the integrity of skin and mucus membranes. It is also an essential vitamin for good visual sight. Research studies suggest that natural foods rich in vitamin A help a body protects against lung and oral cavity cancers.
It is an excellent source of many natural poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds such as α, ß carotenes, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zea-xanthin. Carotenes convert into vitamin A inside the body.
Zea-xanthin is a natural anti-oxidant which has UV (ultra-violet) rays filtering actions in the macula lutea in retina of the eyes. helping to protect from “age-related macular disease” (ARMD) in the elderly.
The fruit is a good source of B-complex group of vitamins like folates, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid.
It is also rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.
Pumpkin seeds indeed are an excellent source of dietary fiber and mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which are good for heart health. In addition, the seeds are concentrated sources of protein, minerals and health-benefiting vitamins. For instance, 100 g of pumpkin seeds provide 559 calories, 30 g of protein, 110% RDA of iron, 4987 mg of niacin (31% RDA), selenium (17% of RDA), zinc (71%) etc., but no cholesterol. Further, the seeds are an excellent source of health promoting amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is converted to GABA in the brain.
It is so easy to use simply cut up, boil with seasoning and garlic, then mash and enjoy as a soup.
Have a memorable Halloween / All Saints Day (La Toussaint) ……..