This is a lovely time of year to feel a renewed sense of energy in the kitchen; in the UK we have an abundance of new seasonal fruits and vegetables from which we can make warming, hearty meals like soups and stews which nourish the body with lots of health promoting nutrients.
Why eating seasonally is so good and where to find these foods
Eating seasonally is a great way to increase the variety of the foods you eat; seasonal foods also tend to be cheaper too as the foods do less air miles and are in abundance.
Our digestive systems LOVE a variety of plant foods. Good bacteria thrive from a diverse intake of foods; in fact, Researchers at the American Gut Project found that people who ate more than 30 different plant foods each week had a more diverse gut microbiome compared with those who ate 10 or fewer. And a healthy gut often supports a healthier body, especially immune and mental health.
The other major advantage of seasonal food is that it tends to be fresher and thus more superior in nutrients. Foods shipped across the globe, picked pre-ripening and covered in chemicals to increase their shelf life will likely not be as nutrient dense as a squash pulled from the ground in the next county.
To find seasonal produce, seek out a good local farm shop or a UK based fruit and veg box delivery company, such as Odd Box or Riverford. Or if you are really lucky, a local farmers market. Supermarkets will stock some seasonal Uk produce, but they still have a lot from overseas.
What's in season in Autumn?
Fruit: apples, pears, chestnuts, quince, elderberries, cranberries.
Vegetables: squash (many varieties), parsnips, kale, marrow, pumpkin, potatoes, swede, swiss chard, watercress, turnips, carrots, cauliflower, beetroot, onions, leeks, mushrooms, cabbage, celery, brussel sprouts, kale, garlic, artichoke, celeriac, fennel, lettuce, pea, runner beans, spring onions, turnips.
So - here’s your challenge - can you work your way through this list of fruit and veg over the coming months? Set yourself a target - is that 5 a week, or 10 a week? Riverford have some excellent recipes for eating seasonally, or just google a recipe with the specific vegetable and see what comes up!
Here are some of my favourites Autumnal soups. Soups are a great lunch or dinner, and can be batch made for easy meals. They are a great alternative to sandwiches, with superior vitamins, minerals and fibre, and you may find swapping to bread will take the edge of an afternoon slump.
I like to add toppings to make sure these meals keep me fuller for longer. Here are some ideas, ideally rotate these to keep the meals feeling fresh and varied:
- Pumpkin or sunflower seeds
- Croutons (use bread and toast or buy ready made)
- Nuts - cashew nuts, toasted almonds or walnuts work well.
- Sprouted seeds - broccoli, alfalfa, etc. Here is a great salad / soup topper you can buy in supermarkets.
Add salt and pepper as desired. Shop bought soups are brimming with salt, so making your own and adding your salt can help you control intake better, which can help you if you are trying to lower blood pressure.
Creamy squash soup
Health benefits: squash contains lots of beta carotene which converts to vitamin A in the body. This supports a healthy immune system, helping to prevent infections. If you select onions, red are more potent in health benefits than white, giving you a high dose of quercetin which is very anti-inflammatory for the body.
You will need: 1 large squash, 1 large onion (red or white), 5 cloves of garlic, 2-3 carrots, 1 pint of stock (vegetable or chicken).
Make: cut up the squash and carrots into medium chunks (ideally avoid the skin of the squash and peel the carrots); steam till soft. Roast the garlic and onion for ten minutes in the oven. Add ingredients to a food processor/blender with the heated stock / water, and blend till creamy.
Rich mushroom soup
Health benefits: mushrooms are excellent immune modulators and feed good bacteria in your digestive system. Thyme is a powerful anti-viral and can help the body to expel mucous from the lungs, great if you are suffering from a cough.
You will need: 1 pack of brown button mushrooms, or a mixed selection (link here), 1 onion, 4 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp thyme leaves (fresh or dried) or more if you like, 1 cup broth (veg, chicken or beef), 1 small cup of milk (dairy or plant) and 3 tbsps plain flour.
Make: cook the mushrooms, onions, garlic and thyme in a frying pan (with butter or coconut oil). Heat the liquids, and stir in the flour.
Peppery watercress soup
Health benefits: watercress is packed full of iron, calcium, folate and vitamin C, so its great for skin and bone health. Studies have also linked the vegetable to lowered risks of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Stock, especially chicken or beef is full of minerals, and collagen (which turns to gelatin when cooked) which is soothing for the gut and supports healing of the body.
You will need: 1 pack of watercress (approx. 80g), 1 large onion (red or white), 5 cloves of garlic, 2 large white potatoes, approx. 1 pint of veg / meat stock.
Make: cut the potatoes into chunks, steam till soft. Steam the watercress for 4 minutes till partially wilted and warm. Roast the garlic and onion for 10 minutes in the oven with a small amount of coconut oil. Add ingredients to a food processor / blender including theheated stock / water and blend till creamy.