Last weekend we welcomed the Autumn Equinox and the change of season, and started to see an abundance of new fruit and veg appearing on the allotment. Our October menu begins on Tuesday and as such we start to welcome back the apples, pears, parsnips, squashes, beetroots and cabbages.
And as we start to put on our scarves again in the morning, our bodies also start to adapt to our environment! Our skin becomes drier, our energy levels start to flag, and we start to crave something other than the sweet berries of summer for something heartier.
Here at Apteekki we are very aware that our digestive systems and our metabolisms are actually tuned to the different seasons and we require different nutrients at different times of the year, and our menus are built around such.
So Autumn… hello… one of the best times of year in Britain (in our humble opinion) as comfy jumpers, wraps, scarves and boots get fished out of the back of the cupboards, and crisp mornings perfect for dog walks, turn into dark afternoons still fresh enough to enjoy a beer garden, and even darker evenings snuggled under knitted blankets in front of the fire with loved ones. Perfect.
However, along with the gusty winds, and dropping temperature all too often come coughs and colds. Autumn is an important time for us to nurture and support our immune systems, our lungs and our large intestines – all of which get a battering in this season.
We start to crave soups, and broths and hearty casseroles, baked potatoes, pumpkin pies and apple crumbles, which is just nature’s way of telling us to eat seasonally for our health, as Autumn’s fruit and vegetables are nourishing in all the ways we need, not to mention cheap because they are local and in season and not being flown halfway round the world (imported fruit and veg is also often harvested too early due to the long distance travel, meaning much less nutritional value than it would have had if picked and eaten at its peak).
So what is in season? Why is it good for you? And what can you do with it?
Apples – There are so many different varieties of apple available at this time of year, sweet, juicy, crisp, tart, there is an apple to suit every taste. And apples are a perfect blend of just the right nutrients we need to keep the colds at bay. Apples are full of healthy antioxidants, fibre, vitamins and minerals. One medium sized apple contains 95 calories and 4.4g of soluble dietary fibre. In addition, an apple is a good source of potassium, phosphorus, calcium, manganese, magnesium, iron and zinc. Apples also contain vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, E, K, folate, and niacin. They are great for increasing our bile production, an essential part of gut health, and are naturally cleansing, removing toxins and cholesterol from the blood. Be sure to choose organic apples though as they are one of the worst foods for contamination with pesticides.
Squash - Autumn squash, banana squash, buttercup squash, giant pumpkin, hubbard squash, Chinese winter squash, Japanese squash, sweet-fleshed pumpkin, acorn squash, carnival squash, butternut squash, stripetti squash, delicata squash, kabocha squash, golden nugget squash, red kuri Squash, spaghetti squash, sweet dumpling squash, turban squash, calabaza squash, winter squash and sweet mama squash – yes there really are that many different variations of the delicious, comforting, sweet vegetable that is the squash. Whether your favorite is pumpkin, butternut, or spaghetti, they all have plenty of fabulous health perks for Autumnal eating. First off, squash is a wonderful source of vitamin A, which is important for good vision and immune function. This vitamin A comes from natural carotenoids found in squash that are powerful disease-fighting and anti-cancer compounds that offer fruits and vegetables their bright red, orange, or yellow color (all those Autumnal coloured- red, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables will contain this). However, no single food on Earth offers a greater percentage of carotenoids than squash! With vitamin C, B6, B5, manganese and fibre, as well as being a great protein source providing some of our essential amino acids - tryptophan, threonine, isoleucine, leucine and lysine (some of the more difficult ones to consume in a vegan diet), this powerful mixture of health benefits, as well as the many varieties to try, makes squash perfect for this time of year!
Parsnip – One of our all time favourite vegetables; personally, I could honestly just eat a tray of roasted parsnips for my dinner and be perfectly content. Generally, parsnip contains more natural sugars than other vegetables. Nonetheless, its sweet, juicy root carries no cholesterol, is rich in several health-benefiting phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals and means it makes a perfect baking aid for refined sugar-free cakes and brownies. It is a beast in providing soluble and insoluble fibre, meaning that it acts as a prebiotic and a colon cleanser, helping reduce blood cholesterol levels, obesity, and constipation conditions. It also contains many high functioning antioxidants which have been found to possess anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and anti-cancer functions. In addition, just one parsnip can provide 28% of your RDA for vitamin C, helping to protect from illness and disease, and neutralising the free radicals in your body which cause skin aging. Furthermore, the parsnip is rich in many B-complex groups of vitamins, which help combat Autumnal fatigue, such as folic acid, vitamin B6, thiamin, and pantothenic acid as well as vitamins K and E. Finally, parsnips contain a wealth of minerals- iron, calcium, copper, potassium, manganese and phosphorus, each of which contribute in their own unique ways to our Autumnal health.
Other seasonal produce with Autumnal health benefits includes damsons, pears, blackberries, quince, figs, plums, chestnuts, cranberries, elderberries, artichoke, aubergine, beetroot, sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, courgette, fennel, garlic, kale, leeks, onions, potatoes, turnips, watercress, celeriac, kohlrabi, jerusalem artichoke, chicory, cauliflower, and if you enjoy a good forage – wild mushrooms!
So what to do with them? We have been discussing this all week in the Apteekki kitchen as we devise our October menu, and also think ahead for November and what will be at its prime then.
On the Apteekki menu, we’ve got Parsnip and Walnut, and Mulled Apple Cake appearing on the bar, Roasted Squash and Beetroot in our Buddha Bowl and a whole host of fermented cabbages and pickles to give you an extra boost of prebiotics and probiotics to keep you healthy this month, but here are some of our other favourites for you to try at home when you can’t get in to eat with us…
And not forgetting…