Autumn will soon officially be here. In nature, this time of year reflects dryness, when the trees lose their leaves, and is a time for reflection as we look back on the past year and prepare to withdraw as the winter months close in.
Marlene Watson-Tara, author of the definitive vegan cook book Go Vegan, gives her advice on keeping well as the temperature drops and the evenings draw in.
Preparing ourselves both mentally and physically is important to keeping well in the colder months ahead.
Mental conditions are rooted in physical health, and our mental state affects our physical health.
Daily diet has a profound influence on both physical and mental health, as well as on the quality of life we experience.
As autumn approaches our motivation to exercise is less apparent. It is however important to continue to stretch out the muscles of the body and get plenty of exercise.
Autumn Dietary Tips
Boosting the immune system at this time of year can help maintain health during the cold days ahead.
The corresponding organs for autumn are the lungs and large Intestine. The lungs expel carbon dioxide, and the large intestine eliminates solid residue.
If this waste is not eliminated frequently it can have an effect on the skin.
The bowel is one of the most important routes of elimination for self-cleansing and works together with the kidneys, bladder, lungs and skin to help eliminate waste efficiently from the body. Selecting the right foods to aid this process is crucial.
Fermented vegetables are the perfect food to replenish the good bacteria in your gut and support your immune system. You can choose from an array of beautifully coloured vegetables to ferment, such as cabbage, carrots and cucumber.
The salt and water solution known as brine is used to protect against the growth of microorganisms that would lead to rotting and promote the growth of the good bacteria ‘lactobacilli.’ It’s important to use the correct ratio of salt to water otherwise the fermentation process won’t happen.
Lacto-fermented vegetables are cultured vegetables. Sauerkraut, kim chi, and sour dill pickles are all forms of lacto-fermentation and are simple to make. Traditionally lacto-fermentation was used to preserve the harvest and store vegetables for the winter.
If you have a garden full of cabbage, cauliflower, beetroots, carrots, and green beans and don’t know how to store them all, consider making a few batches of lacto-fermented vegetables. These can be stored in your refrigerator for months.
If you are dealing with multiple allergies, chances are your gut is out of balance and is in need of a daily dose of beneficial microorganisms.
Some food suggestions for Autumn
Pungent is the taste associated with the autumn season, the pungent taste gives off a hot, dispersing energy and is said to be beneficial to the lungs and colon. Pungent foods have been known to stimulate blood circulation. In most culinary cuisines, they are commonly combined with foods high in fat.
These foods include spring onions, daikon radish (or dried daikon), ginger, peppers, garlic, onions, wasabi (dry mustard) and horseradish. However, an excess of these foods can irritate the intestines.
Herbs and Spices
Thyme is a great culinary herb for the autumn season. It is often used in teas to help ease bronchitis and other respiratory complaints. The tea can also be used as a gargle to soothe sore throats and coughs.
Lotus root is also an excellent tea for chest and throat ailments. Echinacea has active compounds that can help to reinforce the body’s own defence mechanism and is well known for its ability to accelerate recovery from infections, colds and flu.
Don’t over eat
One of the features of healthy societies is that they relax at meals and don’t overeat. In modern culture, food is often eaten on the run. We get used to eating quickly to fit lunch or breakfast into a busy schedule, and as a result don’t chew properly. When we stop moving, sit and relax we digest food more efficiently and convert blood sugars for long-term storage.
These functions of the parasympathetic nervous system do not function when the mind is anxious.
Marlene’s suggested recipes for a healthy autumn.
4 cups finely grated green cabbage
4 cups finely grated carrots
4 cups filtered water
2 tbsps. sea salt
Pack the vegetables into a mason jar as tightly as possible. Pour in the brine until all the vegetables are submerged. Cover with a cabbage leaf to keep the vegetables under water. Close the lid and store in a cool dark place for up to five days then store in the refrigerator.
Sesame Adzuki Bean Burger
The adzuki bean, or red mung bean, is an annual vine widely cultivated throughout East Asia for its small bean. Adzuki beans are rich in nutrients, such as fibre, protein and manganese. They are linked to several health benefits, including weight loss and improved digestion.
1 onion diced fine
3 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
1 red bell pepper, small dice
3 cups stemmed, chopped kale, small dice
3 cups cooked adzuki beans, divided
3 tbsp. tahini
2 tbsp. water, or as needed
½ cup or more sesame seeds (optional)
Preheat oven to 190C/375°. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Heat a splash or two of water in a large pan over medium heat and add the onion, celery, garlic, and ginger.
Cook stirring occasionally until the onion is softened and translucent.
Stir in the bell pepper and kale and cook, covered, until kale has wilted, another 5 minutes or so.
Remove from the heat. Meanwhile, puree 2 cups of the adzuki beans, tahini, and water in a food processor.
Transfer to a large mixing bowl and stir in the vegetable mixture, and remaining cup of whole adzuki beans. Sprinkle sesame seeds on a large plate, if using.
With moistened hands, scoop out one heaped tablespoon of the mixture and form into a ball. Use more mixture for larger burgers.
Flatten slightly and press either side into the sesame seeds and transfer to the baking tray. Bake the burgers for 20 minutes turning once halfway through or until a slight crust has formed.
Serve with baked pumpkin slices on top, drizzle with balsamic glaze and enjoy a hefty serving of steamed greens and pickles.
Autumn Roasted Vegetables
What vegetables to roast? Root vegetables like potatoes, parsnips, sweet potatoes and carrots are old standbys when it comes to roasting, of course, but there are all sorts of wonderful concoctions you can come up with. From cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts to courgettes, onions and bell peppers. I often make a batch of oven-roasted root vegetables and store leftovers for the next day’s lunch.
2 parsnips, peeled and thickly sliced
2 large red beetroots, scrubbed, peeled and quartered
2 large carrots, cut into thick spears
1 large sweet potato, cut into thick spears
2 large red onions, peeled and thickly sliced
1 courgette, cut into irregular chunks
6 cloves of garlic, in skins (remove after roasting)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp mixed herbs
Preheat the oven to 180°C (375°F), gas 5. In a large bowl, toss the vegetables in the balsamic vinegar. Add some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Sprinkle with a spoonful of your favourite herbs: oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley or basil, and mix well.
Transfer the vegetables to a parchment-lined roasting tin. Roast the vegetables for about one hour, stirring them at least twice through the cooking time.
Spritz with some water during cooking time if the vegetables begin to dry out. If you prefer your vegetables less cooked, shorten the roasting time.
The balsamic vinegar and sea salt make for fabulous roasting, complementing the caramelized sweetness with a perfect touch of salty tart.