Eating for the season
On my daily dog walk I am currently waiting patiently for a black elderberry bush to ripen so I can pick the berries. Over the last week they have gone from a green shade to red to almost black/purple colour. I am seeing wild raspberries and blackberries in abundance, the nice thing about the black elderberry it is higher up, less chance of contamination from a dog or cat! The leaves are changing slowly but surely, falling off the trees, the mornings are misty with bright, sunny crisp days and cooler, darker evenings, all signs to my mind and body the summer has ended and we enter autumn.
The appearance of these berries, leaves and weather changing has made me think about seasonality and why being in touch with it, may be beneficial for our health. Black elderberries have been shown to be immune protective and if taken at the start of a bug may be able to fight the infection. It is interesting that they grow at this time of year just when the cold and flu season starts. A study of 60 patients suffering from flu symptoms were tested, some patients received 15 ml of black elderberry syrup 4 times a day for 5 days at the start of their symptoms, those taking the black elderberry recovered 4 days earlier than those taking the placebo. Though a small study it is a safe food to try at the start of a cold or flu bug. A good supplement that is widely available is Sambucol, no not Sambuca – that may have the opposite effect!
Eating for the seasons has many advantages. The food tastes better, food grown in season means the taste and textures are at their peak. If you buy local the chances are it has not been picked too early and not had far to travel. For these reasons, it is often cheaper, there is less chance of it spoiling, it is cheaper to harvest and distribute to the shops because it is at optimal supply. It encourages variety in the diet, you may try different foods in eating more seasonable foods so for example beetroot is in season just now, this is a food not everybody thinks about buying. Eating seasonally is good for the environment because fewer pesticides are used to keep the food fresher for longer and if you eat local as well there will be less air miles used. Local shops in Edinburgh on your high street are a good place buy fruit and vegetables. Earthy in Cannonmills and Ratcliffe Terrace has array of good quality fruit and vegetables amongst good quality meats, cheeses and fish. Fruit and vegetable box schemes are a good idea, they traditionally will only give you what is available on their farms. Macleod organics, Phantassie, Grow Wild and East Coast Organics are some examples. If you are not from Edinburgh search google for local shops and fruit and veg schemes in your area.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that eating foods right for the season is not only good for the environment it is good for you. They believe winter has yin properties – dark, slow, cold and inverted energy as opposed to summer, which is a yang season – light, hot, quick and open. Some people love winter – they love the cool air, they enjoy long hill walks and embrace winter sports like skiing and sledging. Some prefer to hibernate, stay in doors and be more reclusive, they tend to feel more sad at this time of year and more prone to low mood. TCM believes that you can enjoy winter by living, eating and exercising for the season, they believe by listening to your body you can have a healthy, happy winter. According to TCM It is season for looking after the kidneys, rest is encouraged as is meditation, writing and exercises such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong, it is a time to reflect and look inwardly. Foods that should be consumed are soups with hearty vegetables, casseroles, rich stocks made with vegetables or bones. Typical foods they recommend are: black beans, kidney beans, chicken lamb, walnuts, chestnuts and dark leafy greens as they all support and strengthen the kidneys.
So what is in season, it is quite an abundant time of year for fruit and vegetables. According to eatseasonable.co.uk apples, raspberries, blackcurrants, sweet potatoes, beetroot, pumpkins, squashes, courgettes, cucumber, leeks, horseradish, broccoli, French beans, turnips and celeriac.
Make soups, vegetable and meat casseroles, cottage pies with sweet potato toppings, crumbles with stewed apples and blackcurrants, curries with root vegetables and ginger, foods to warm the heart and soul. Have a scroll through this blog for recipes.
You can still eat bananas not all food has to be strictly in season or even local, I don’t think we grow sweet potatoes here. Try and increase seasonal eating and listen to your body. Now what will I do with the black elderberries after I have washed them……any ideas?