The leaves have turned, the morning air is cool, and the harvesting has begun. Fall is most definitely the prettiest season, and it has arrived. There are so many colours and so much great food. This is a great time to get in tune with the earth and to eat and preserve the food it has provided for us.
Fall is harvest time. The time when we reap all that we have sown, and it is magical. As the cold, long winter approaches, we naturally crave rich, hearty food like potatoes, squash, and beets to get us through the cold nights.
Eating foods when they are in season means that you will be getting the most nutrients, flavour, and they will be the most affordable. Added bonus – we will be getting the nutrients we need and crave based on our natural connection to the earth. That all sounds pretty good to me!
We are lucky enough to be able to store a lot of produce through the winter, like onions, apples, and carrots. Humans have also figured out pretty cool ways to preserve the stuff that doesn’t last so well.
This is the time to start canning, pickling, fermenting, freezing, and drying all the fresh produce so we can feed ourselves and our loved ones healthy food directly from the earth even when there is nothing growing. There are some great resources out there for preserving, but right now the love of my life is The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz!
I have given myself time this year to prepare so that my family can have healthy, whole foods throughout the winter. Here are some things to try:
Fermenting cucumbers to create pickles that will contain vital microbes to help our immune systems through the long, dark winter months. These are great to eat with the heavy winter meals because the microbes also aid digestion. There are also growing studies that show how your gut’s microbiome (all the microbes that live in your gut) also help with mood and serotonin levels.
Rosehips are very high in vitamin C, and are ready for harvesting right now in our area. I am making a rosehip jelly to eat when the first signs of a cold show.
Earlier this year, my wife and I went out to pick some high-bush cranberries for the first time. High-bush cranberries are high in antioxidants to help with free radicals throughout the body. They offer the same help with urinary tract infections as regular cranberries, but are a lot more tart. A sauce made for Thanksgiving would be a great use.
Sauerkraut of all kinds fill our cold room, and I love trying different types of vegetables for different flavours and colours. The benefits are many, see fermented cucumbers. Check out The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz if this is a route you want to go down. This book will make you think you can ferment anything!
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Eating seasonally has been on my list of things to do for a long time now, but I am just starting to change some things. This year has definitely been the biggest jump, and it will be continual.
The easiest and most sustaining way to change is to add things into your life gradually, and when you have created a habit and the change is no longer new, move on to the next point on your list. Our whole lives are about constant change, so to take things slow is okay.
The Fall Diet
What kinds of foods are made for the fall? Start to look at what is being harvested at this time. The most popular veggie right now seems to be pumpkin. You can find it in everything – muffins, fancy drinks, pies, bread, etc. If you are a fan of pumpkin, this must be your favourite time of year! If you are not such a fan, there are many other great fall foods out there to try.
Check out all the other types of squash available. They are usually all thrown in the same bin and have really cool shapes and colours. Squash can be used to make delicious rich and creamy soups, sauces, and dips. It can be simply cut in half, seeds removed, placed in a baking pan with a little water, baked until soft, and then added into a stirfry or casserole. Don’t forget to save the seeds to bake in the oven.
Spaghetti squash, when cooked, comes out looking just like its namesake. It is great with a homemade tomato sauce with lots of added vegetables. Squash usually has a sweet flavor but doesn’t contain high amounts of natural sugars, so your sugar levels will not spike. This means that moods remain stable and energy is high throughout the day. They are a great option if you have a sweet tooth.
Sweet potato is another sweet addition. They are very high in beta carotene as well as potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. B6 is a great vitamin for women as it aids hormonal control and PMS symptoms. Sweet potato can be added to a veggie burger recipe or soup. It can be made into the famous sweet potato fries, as well as just served mashed with nothing added – they are that good.
Carrots last for quite a long time once they are picked. They are high in beta carotene as well as potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin K. Potassium is necessary for generating muscle contractions and regulating the heartbeat.
They can be added to any soup and will give it such a beautiful colour. Carrots can be softened and then added to a food processor with your fave flavours and blended to make a dip, sauce, or dressing. They can even be pickled to last even longer. Raw or cooked, this is a favourite vegetable around most houses.
Look for all the different colours and shapes carrots can come in. There are so many different types of each vegetable out in the world. There are farmers that grow different variations of our most common vegetables, and it is important to look for these and try them because they all offer something a little different.
Dark leafy greens like kale and Swiss chard are also popular in the fall. Kale is said to get a little sweeter when picked after a frost. These hearty greens are high in calcium and magnesium which is great news for your bones and muscles.
They can be steamed and added to any dish or added to a stirfry to bulk it up. Kale is also really great when massaged – no joke! Rip kale into bite size pieces and add to a bowl. Drizzle some oil on top (flax oil is great for this because it cannot be heated), sprinkle some salt on and then start massaging. It shouldn’t take long for you to notice the leaves starting to soften and the colour getting richer. This is a great bed for your main meal.
Another great veggie is the beet. It has the sweet flavour that so many root vegetables have as well as one of the most vibrant colours we can eat. Although check out the many varieties out there, like the one pictured.
Beets contain vitamin C, potassium, manganese, and the B vitamin folate. Folate is necessary for women who are planning to get and those who are pregnant. Beets are also great for detoxification and the circulatory system.
To eat beets, you can steam or roast them. Raw is another option. If eating them raw, I do prefer them grated so the pieces are easy to chew. This adds a beautiful colour and sweet, earthy flavour to salads.
Brussels sprouts are a cool little vegetable that have a similar taste to cabbage but are more subtle.
They are very high in vitamin K, which among other things, is needed for blood clotting and they also contain vitamin C, a wonderful antioxidant always needed to lessen free radical damage.
Brussels sprouts can be eaten raw or cooked. To eat raw, cut into very narrow slices and add to salads or sprinkle on top of a main for added crunch and flavour.
My favourite way to cook these is to roast them. Cut off the little stem and then cut in half, throw in a bowl, add avocado or coconut oil and a pinch of salt, put them on a baking sheet, and roast until they are your desired texture.
You will also find cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes, onions, parsnip, turnip, as well as so many greens, and many other veggies depending on where you live. When you eat a variety of whole foods, you will get more nutrients compared to eating the same thing day in and day out. You won’t have to worry about individual vitamins and minerals like the ones listed above because your body will be getting all it needs – with two exceptions. (See note below.)
This is a great time of year to pick up that one thing you have always wanted to try and just give it a go.
Variety Is The Spice Of Life
When eating a whole food, all of the minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients, etc. all work together to make each nutrient more potent in the body than when they are isolated like they are in supplements. This is why it is so important to really work at eating a variety of food each day to get all the nutrients we can rather than relying on supplements. There are exceptions for us vegans though, so click here to learn more.
Trying a new vegetable each week is a great way to start adding variety into the diet. Herbs and spices are also a great way to add in different vitamins and minerals quickly and easily.
As you start to add in new whole foods, you may begin to notice that you naturally stop eating the processed foods that contain less nutrients and very little fiber.
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5 Foods For Happy Hormones guide!
Fall is a time of change and harvest, preparation and introspection. Take this beautful time of year to spend time on activities that focus within. Reading and journaling are examples of this. You may have something that you enjoy to do quietly on your own, and now is a great time to pick this up again. Walking in nature is one of my favourites. It will always calm me down no matter how anxious I am. Let me know what your favourite quiet activity is in the comments below.