Seasonal and Local Eating – Enjoy the Autumn Fare

I know many, many people for whom Fall is their favorite time of year. I was raised in California, so had to learn as an adult to appreciate the seasons – all of them.

After 40 years in the Midwest, I still have to work at it, to get past the dread of facing the cold to come, and enjoy the splendors of Autumn.

Before the craze of the winter holidays, this season really is an opportunity to savor simple, beautiful moments and celebrate the many manifestations of the harvest time of year.

Fall is synonymous with abundance and gratitude, and we’re especially grateful for what fruits and vegetables are in season for our enjoyment.

The Autumn months are a celebration of the natural evolution of all things – an acknowledgement of growth and expansion, of gathering and letting go. We observe these things in nature, and, if we’re at all attuned to the process, we celebrate those same things inwardly – spiritually. We naturally seek comfort in this transitional time. As temperatures drop we create serenity in snug spaces to contemplate all the good in our lives, the natural letting go that occurs, and the blessing of quiet and stillness.

One of the easiest places to be carried gracefully by the Fall sprit is at your local Farmers’ Market or grocery store. Rather than reach for the same list of fruits and vegetables, make it a point to stretch to those things grown now, seasonally, and, as much as possible, locally. This is not hard in most areas of the country between October and early December.

Eating with the seasons is beneficial in many ways.

Most of the benefits can be summarized into three categories: it’s better for your body and spirit, your wallet, your community and the world around you.

Body and Spirit. Food consumed during its appropriate season is more nutritionally dense. For example, in a study evaluating vitamins in broccoli, it was found that when it is grown in the Fall, its peak season, it had more vitamin C than when it was grown in the Spring.

All fruits and vegetables cultivated during their natural growing season have much more intense flavor and ripeness. As well, they retain nutrients when they don’t have to be picked too young and then withstand long travels as they ripen.

Some Autumn foods are thought to help us feel more focused, more grounded throughout the Fall. Root vegetables, interestingly enough, are particularly good at this because they literally grow underground. Their roots, as their name suggests, extend deep down within the earth, anchoring the plant in place to provide a strong foundation for its growth. Sweet potatoes, carrots turnips, onions, parsnip, turnips, garlic, radishes, and rutabagas are all root vegetables. They can help to keep you feeling leveled and calm as we approach the busiest time of year. These vegetables are sweeter than the dark leafy greens, so can help to crowd out cravings for sweet foods that are far less healthy and beneficial for the body and mind.

Financial. When produce is in season, there is a natural abundance of it, which contributes to drops in prices. Food that is locally grown costs much less money to transport, so it retains far more of its natural vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phytonutrients, and micronutirients.

Community Support Buying locally grown food is a big boon to local farming community, and causes much less stress on the environment than that caused by long cross country trips in massive trucks.

Foods to look for.

  • Fruit: cranberries, apples, pomegranates, citrus fruits, and pears.
  • Green Vegetables: arugula, broccoli, spinach, kale, chard, celery, Brussels sprouts
  • Root Vegetables: onions, carrots, squash, pumpkin, turnips, and sweet potato
  • Whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, oats, and millet
  • Legumes: beans, chickpeas, and lentils
  • Herbs: ginger, turmeric cinnamon, rosemary, thyme, bail, and dill.

Luckily, Autumn’s harvest includes a wide variety of healthy, nutrient-dense foods. Along with root vegetables and crisp fruits, warming herbs like ginger and cinnamon are loaded with antioxidants to boost the immune system, a very important function as temperature drops and harmful virus’ emerge. Allergies and intolerances aside, a diet composed of seasonal vegies and fruit, whole grains, high quality protein in nuts, seeds, seeds, and legumes is essential for overall good health – body, mind, spirit, pocketbook and community.

Enjoy the bounty of the harvest!

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