Eating with the Seasons
I do love the seasons, the chance for change and something new from nature.
Over here in Cornwall, the evidence of autumn is all around, to be honest, it started in August. But now the shift is more dramatic. I have been watching the tree outside my window. The leaves are turning yellow and brown and tumbling down, it’s like the tree is slowly undressing.
The days are shortening which gives life a little more urgency there is a hustle in the air but that may just be because schools go back. For me what is completely thrilling is the abundance of free food.
The hedgerows are laden with blackberries. I have already picked close to a kilo. There are a few trees in the village heavy with apples, picking a bag hardly makes a dent. Then there are rosehips that have ripened through the summer. I can’t wait to try my hand at making a bottle of rosehip syrup.
All this abundance shows how nature provides us with what we need at the right time. Berries rich in vitamin C and beneficial phytonutrients along with rosehip a natural form of vitamin C. Both presented to us at the start of winter, when we may very well need the extra immune support to get us through winter.
Then all those apples stewed up and bottled are the perfect food to help keep the gut microbiome healthy. And a healthy microbiome keeps the immune system healthy, that means a healthy you.
Before I go on for too long about the joy of autumn in Cornwall I have not forgotten the spectacular display that the Cape offers in springtime. All those bright colourful wildflowers and that feeling of freshness as nature wakes up. Plants seem determined to make up for lost time growing furiously.
I feel there is something quite special about embracing the seasons and eating what is in season. Let’s face it eating the same food the whole year would get boring and we eventually want something new. So why not embrace the fact that nature gives us some new options every couple of months.
Spring vegetables are light and cleansing just what is needed after heavier winter foods. Some even help to alleviate hayfever, which is so prominent in spring, how helpful.
Keep an eye out for some of these key spring vegetables and make use of what nature provides:
The queen of spring vegetables, nothing says spring more than when asparagus suddenly appears. Rich in potassium and a natural diuretic it can help with water retention and lower high blood pressure. Containing quercetin which helps inflammation and hay fever.
Steam or roast and add any leftovers to salads.
Although they grow throughout the year in spring they are sweeter and less peppery. Radishes are a bit under-rated, they are a natural diuretic and help to purify the kidneys. They help to increase bile flow, helping the liver to work effectively. Radishes also help to get rid of excess mucus in the body. Rich in Vitamin C, sulphur and silica it makes them a great skin food.
Radish and cucumber seem to work well together. Cucumber cools down the peppery radish and the radish adds some heat to the slightly bland cucumber. I like to make tzatziki using radish instead of cucumber.
If you know where to look you can find nettle growing wild, otherwise, farmers markets will have it. When picking and handling make sure to use gloves if you don’t want to be stung Once cooked that sting disappears. Nettles protect the liver and are a natural diuretic. They also help those that suffer from hayfever.
I love nettle soup which is fresh and cleansing.
We all know how important it is to eat salads and slightly bitter leaves are especially good for us. Lettuce is naturally bitter but we favour sweeter varieties. Add rocket, mustard greens and watercress into salads. The bitter flavour helps to stimulate our digestive enzymes helping to improve a sluggish digestive system.
Importance of potassium
Potassium is an important mineral found in (new) potatoes, peas and kale all spring vegetables. Potassium helps to balance excess sodium in the body. It is important for fluid balance and helps with water retention. It is also useful for the nervous system as well as for the heart and muscles. Potassium is a key mineral for helping with high blood pressure. How lucky then that so many spring vegetables contain an abundance of potassium.
A word on kale
If you don’t like kale it may be because you have tried it at the wrong time of year. Like many vegetables that grow through the summer, the flavour can intensify and leafy vegetables can be tougher. Summer kale is both tougher and stronger in flavour than that grown in spring. So give spring kale a try, it is softer and milder in flavour.
One of the reasons why I love eating in Italy is the use of seasonal foods. Restaurants make use of the abundance of seasonal produce which means there is always something new on the menu.
Food tastes better when it is eaten at the right time of year, nothing beats the flavour of a tomato grown in the summer sun.
Eating food in season means it is grown locally so doesn’t have many food miles flying it in from far off locations.
Eating locally grown seasonal food supports local growers.
It encourages us to explore different foods at different times of the year.
Become a more creative cook as you explore new recipes
One of my favourite cookbooks to embrace eating with the seasons is "The Natural Cook: Eating with the seasons from root to fruit" by Tom Hunt.