There is a school of thought that advocates eating seasonal produce , this is an interesting dietary and ecological idea. As it reconnects us with food and the land and alerts us to the reality that different crops such as pumpkins, are produced at different times of the year.
It also cuts down on the carbon footprint of importing and transportation. So for us in the UK, this represents a viable option.
We live in a temperate climate but with the assistance of technology; we can grow many exotic crops in the UK which would otherwise perish in the climate.
It’s easy to follow this in summer as we can feast on a wide range of fruits and vegetables. We can literally eat the rainbow with a broad spectrum of colourful fruit and vegetables as possible. Think strawberries, tomatoes, radishes, blueberries, summer leafy salads; but as we enter autumn, much of the more delicate foodstuffs start to disappear. This is when the roots come into their own, with carrots, beetroot, potatoes, swede and parsnips; as well as the leafy brassicas such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale.
Going Back to Our Roots
And that brings us to pumpkins! It’s very nearly pumpkin time and luckily for those planning to spend hours of frustration carving a hideous and unrecognisable face out of a solid block of fruit for Halloween, the fruit is now well and truly in season!
Although the UK doesn’t have as much history with pumpkins as in the Americas, where pumpkins actually originated over 9,000 years ago, there is no doubt about the value of the fruit. In fact, worldwide, the production of pumpkins exceeds 27 million tonnes, with China and India the main producers.
Pumpkins are part of the squash family. When cooked, the whole pumpkin is edible from the skin to the pulp and seeds. The nutritional value is undisputed; a great source of potassium and beta-carotene, and containing minerals including calcium and magnesium, as well as vitamins E, C and some B vitamins.
Another root vegetable that has accelerated in UK popularity in recent years is the sweet potato. This is also about to come into season. With a creamy texture and sweet-spicy flavour, this food has become the norm on menus to replace the humble chip. And its nutritional value is also high, as it is rich in fibre, vitamins A, C and B6, and an excellent source of carbohydrates. There are two varieties and the orange-fleshed one is also rich in beta-carotene.
Other fruits and vegetables reaching their peak in autumn include apples, aubergines, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cranberries, dates, figs, turnips and marrow.
Pronounce It Keen-wah
October is harvest time for quinoa! Quinoa is fast becoming a staple food among vegans and vegetarians for its incredible health benefits. This is a bead-shaped grain with a slightly bitter flavour and firm texture, and unlike wheat or rice, quinoa is a complete protein.
It contains all nine of the essential amino acids and has been recognised by the United Nations as a supercrop for its health benefits from dietary fibre, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. It is also gluten-free. Initially grown in the Andes in South America, it was known for thousands of years as the ‘mother grain’. High in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, it is potentially beneficial for human health in the prevention and treatment of disease.
All of the above-mentioned foods are now grown successfully in the UK. Once considered exotic and relatively rare, they are now acceptable commonplace foods. At the risk of mentioning the B word, who knows how self sufficient we will need to be in future? The rewards of a seasonal food supply are exciting, especially with the contemporary emphasis on health and environmental benefits. After all, variety is the spice of life!