Eating with the Seasons + A Fall Produce Guide
Eating with the Seasons
There are so many wonderful things about Fall, but personally the food might be my favourite! There are so many wonderful options to choose from. It's a time that gets me really excited to get into the kitchen and start creating delicious new recipes. Hearty soups and stews, baking and any other type of recipe that is comforting and cozy. The cooler temperatures make me crave warmer foods that have a bit more staying power than what I crave during the summer. There is a definite and noticeable shift in the types of food I want to eat with each change in weather and there is a very good reason behind this. It’s called eating with the seasons.
There is a reason why certain things only grow in specific seasons and just like the growth of food, we should follow suit with what we choose to eat and when. Eating seasonally is when you will get the most flavour, nutritional value and bang for your buck! The natural cycle of produce is perfectly designed to support our health. How cool is that?! Heartier foods throughout fall and winter help to ground our bodies and in the spring and summer lighter foods like leafy greens and berries help our bodies detoxify and shed excess after a long winter of heavier foods.
Eating seasonally is a very good practice to get into because it allows your body to be in tune with your surroundings, better adapted to the climate you live in and it aligns with the body’s natural healing process. It also forces you to cook at home more, which is a wonderful thing for your health. Not only that, but like I mentioned eating in season provides benefits like optimal flavour. Consider for example, have you ever bought a tomato or a strawberry in the middle of winter and wondered why it tastes kind of bland and nothing like the ones from your garden in the summer? Yup! That’s because strawberries and tomatoes don’t grow in Canada in the winter so therefore they are not in season. We are fortunate enough to be blessed with having access to these foods year round, but it doesn’t always mean we should eat them year round.
Seasonally fresh produce also has a stronger nutrient profile because it’s been allowed to fully develop and ripen in the sun. Plants get their nourishment from the sun and soil so a plant that has had more sun exposure will also contain higher levels of antioxidants and nutrients! Another important point to note is that eating seasonally, and locally for that matter, is more economically friendly too. Seasonal food is often much cheaper to produce and sell because when there is an abundance of a product, the prices can usually go down. So cash in on the seasonal bounty rather than having to spend a fortune on imported produce that is not in season.
Yet another benefit of eating with the season is the effect it has on the environment. Seasonal food is more likely to be locally produced which reduces the load on our environment due to transport or “food mileage”. Foods grown outside of their natural season or environment need a lot more human assistance in the form of pesticides, chemicals and preservatives to grow. When you choose local and seasonal food you are more likely to get a product that has been grown more naturally. As it is many small family farms can’t afford to go through the organic certification process, but they still follow very healthy and natural growing practices.
Can we also take a minute to give a huge shout out to all of the wonderful local farmers, crafters, and makers that provide us with these wonderful foods?! They rock. Getting to know where your food is coming from, who is growing it and how they do it is so important and it can make you feel much more connected to the whole process of how your food gets from the ground to your plate. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, visit farmers markets, share the knowledge and create a community. Together we are more powerful! Eating seasonally is also a fantastic way to ensure you’re keeping your diet fun and exciting. It adds an element of creativity to your meals because it challenges you to switch it up and try new things. Variety and rotation is healthy for our bodies and by changing our menu according to what’s in season and available you are less likely to develop food intolerances.
When you start to take back control over what you put into your body, what you put into the foods you choose to eat, etc, you will notice a huge difference in the way your body feels. Respect the natural rhythm of nature and your body and learn to live in balance with your surroundings. I know that might make me sound like a little bit of a hippy (trust me, it wouldn’t be the first time lol), but it’s so true that when you really pay attention to your body and make conscious choices you start to raise your awareness and appreciate all the beauty that surrounds us.
Obviously it’s ok to buy produce that isn’t in season every now and then, but consider this your crash course in eating with the seasons! Try it out and you just might notice that it helps you simplify your life and trim down the amount you spend on groceries. When you eat with the seasons you can trust that the food you’re eating is nourishing you in the best way possible!
Guide to Fall Produce
Apples: Crisp, sweet apples are the epitome of Fall! There are literally hundreds of different types available and each one has a unique taste and purpose that it works best for. Choose apples that are firm with a smooth skin.
Beets: Earthy and sweet, these root veggies can be red, pink, orange, yellow or my favourite red and pink stripped (known as chioggia beets)! They range in size and both the beet and it’s leaves are edible. You can roast them, shred them, eat them raw, steam them, boil them, pop them into smoothies, add the greens to a salad and much more. Just a heads up their vibrant hue will turn anything they touch or cook with pink. Beets are a great source of antioxidants especially those that work to help support our liver and detoxification system.
Brussels Sprouts: These tender little gems are a member of the cabbage family. They’re often over looked and made fun of, but Brussels sprouts are tender, crisp and lightly sweet when roasted, pan fried, or steamed and are only truly mushy and unappealing when overcooked. Another great way to prepare Brussels sprouts is to shred them raw and mix into a salad like my Brussels Sprout and Apple Salad. When buying them, look for smaller sprouts that are uniform in size. Wash them well and remove the woody stem along with any tough or damaged leaves.
Cabbage: Strong and sturdy, cabbage comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and can be green or purple. Cabbage is very versatile and can take on many forms from salads to fermented sauerkrauts and kimchi to coleslaws to soups, stir-fries and more. Look for a dense and firm head of cabbage when shopping.
Carrots: Sweet and crunchy, carrots are a fan favourite for many! These root veggies come in a variety of colours such as purple, yellow, red, white and of course their trademark orange hue. They can be used in many ways aside from just being used as a dipper. Grate them into salads or muffins, roast them, incorporate them into soups or stews or simply snack on them. Thinner carrots tend to be a little sweeter and good for snacking whereas larger carrots tend to be less sweet and can be a bit tougher.
Cranberries: These tart fruits are a Thanksgiving staple! They provide and antioxidant punch and due to their high acidity level can be stored fresh for quite some time. When buying fresh cranberries, look for shiny, bright red berries that are plump and firm. You can also find frozen berries. Try them in my Coconut Cranberry and Banana Bread Pudding for a yummy dessert.
Parsnips: Closely related to the carrot, parsnips have a cream coloured skin and when cooked they have a starchy texture similar to potatoes. These earthy root vegetables have a sweet flavor, especially when roasted. They can also be boiled, baked or mashed and work well in soups lending a velvety texture when pureed. When buying, look for firm and small to medium sized parsnips for the best flavor.
Pears: Like apples, there are many different varieties of pears available. Crisp, juicy and sweet pears pair well with many dishes from baking, roasted, paired with cheese, in oatmeal, smoothies or simply eating as is. Being an excellent source of fiber and antioxidants, pears are a great snack for Fall.
Pomegranates: Ruby red jewel-like seeds that are sweet and tart make pomegranates notorious for being the juicy fruit that is well worth the effort of removing their rind. They work well tossed into salads, or sprinkled on breakfast, add some to warmer dishes for a fun pop of flavor or eat them on their own. Select pomegranates that are large and feel heavy for their size. Avoid any with bruise or damaged skin.
Pumpkins: This list would not be complete without the beloved pumpkin ;) They come in many shapes and sizes and can be used in soups, baking, stews, pastas, smoothies and of course pumpkin pie. Try this Pumpkin Spice Pie! Look for a tight and firm pumpkin with a bright orange hue.
Squash: This encompasses an array of squash varieties like butternut, acorn, delicata, spaghetti, kabocha and more! Their inner flesh is usually yellow to deep orange and when cooked turns creamy and sweet. The outer skin can range in colour depending on the type from orange, yellow, green and beige. Each one has it’s own unique flavour and ideal use. They can be used in sweet and savoury dishes. I especially love butternut squash blended into soups like this one. When picking your squash look for one that feels heavy for it’s size and has a thick, hard rind.
Sweet Potatoes: Often confused with the yam, these starchy root vegetables have a sweet flavor that works well in both savoury and sweet dishes. The orange-fleshed sweet potato is more commonly found in our groceries stores, but they can be found in a variety of colours. Sweet potatoes are nutrient dense and their natural sweetness makes them a perfect choice for incorporating into desserts and baking. They’re also delicious roasted and eaten as a side dish. For a fun twist try adding pureed sweet potato into a smoothie! Choose small to medium sweet potatoes without any bruises that feel heavy for their size. Store them in a cool, dark place.
What are you favourite seasonal Fall foods? Comment below and let me know!