4 delicious and healthy recipes for seasonal eating
Why is it so important to eat with the seasons? The reality is that eating foods in sync with what’s happening around us in nature means we source locally grown food (and support our farmers), maximise our nutrient intake and minimise our environmental footprint.
We go to our local farmers’ market every week to get our produce. There’s also lots of amazing programs happening around Australia that will deliver locally grown fruit and vegetables to your door and that are designed to nurture the health of our soils by using sustainable farming techniques that will benefit future generations.
Eating with the seasons and listening to how your body (and brain) responds is a way to sync yourself with what’s happening in your environment.
When you eat seasonally, not only is it friendlier to the planet because there are fewer miles involved, it’s also far kinder to your body and your wallet.
Ayurvedic medicine considers the practice of eating with the seasons to be a way for us to stay in the moment, in sync with our bodies, and to nourish ourselves with the foods that nature provides at certain times of year.
The reality is that, the more and more processed our foods have become, the more we have moved away from the way our ancestors ate before the Industrial Revolution. Then, they ate what was available each season, and this consisted of minimally processed, naturally grown plant and animal foods.
That’s why eating with the seasons and listening to how your body (and brain) responds is a way to sync yourself with what’s happening in your environment.
Warm weather fare
Summer is almost officially over but there’s more warm weather to come yet and there’s so much I love about the food that’s available to eat at this time of year. The garden is groaning with a wide variety of delicious seasonal vegies from cucurbits such as zucchini, cucumbers and courgettes to sun-kissed tomatoes and eggplants to a wide variety of summer salad leaves and, of course, a whole lotta avocados! It’s the chance to get back to basics, spend heaps of time outdoors having fun and, most importantly, to simplify the menu.
The best thing is that vegies that flourish in the sunshine months are light and fresh, and these qualities form the basis of many easy-to-prepare dishes that complement the heat and see us barely needing to turn the oven on. Instead, we like to either fire up the barbecue or enjoy the enzyme-rich goodness of raw dishes. When it’s roasting outside, I like to eat the most primal dish of all: sashimi and raw meats delicately sliced and combined with salad leaves and in-season herbs, drizzled with a zesty dressing.
Now is also an ideal time to fuel your body with enzyme-rich foods that nourish your digestive system. I love whipping up fresh, tasty salads, full of at least three different varieties of veg because so many leafy greens grow so abundantly at this time of year. One of my favourites is a raw beetroot salad that can easily be served as a meal.
It combines grated beetroot, frisee (a bitter leafy veg that belongs to the endive family), broccolini and kale with nuts, herbs and pomegranate seeds, all coated in a tahini dressing. I also like to halve a couple of soft-boiled eggs on top to make a super-colourful meal that’s also nutritionally balanced because it contains good sources of fat and protein, meaning it leaves you feeling satiated.
I like to accompany any of these salads with some fermented veg on the side. It’s a food philosophy I’ve followed ever since reading Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morell from the Weston A Price Foundation a number of years ago.
“Almost all traditional societies incorporate raw, enzyme-rich foods into their cuisines — not only vegetable foods but also raw animal proteins and fats,” explains Fallon Morell in her book. “These diets also traditionally include a certain amount of cultured or fermented foods, which have an enzyme content that is actually enhanced by the fermenting and culturing process. In fact, in native cultures that cooked much or even most of their food, a majority of their enzymes came from moderate amounts of fermented condiments or beverages, which traditionally accompanied cooked meals. Examples include sauerkraut, beet kvass, kombucha, fermented fish or chutneys.”
Mary Enig PhD explains further in Eat Fat Lose Fat: “We like to think of fermented foods as ‘super-raw’, because they contain very high levels of enzymes (formed during the lacto-fermentation process) that more than compensate for the enzymes destroyed by cooking.” Fermentation also has the added benefit of pre-digesting the food and making for easier overall digestion.
The reason there’s so much talk of vegetables and fruit here is that seasonal eating really only applies to plant-based foods. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors’ dietary choices were very much controlled by what was and wasn’t in season.
For example, in earlier times during the wet season for the Hazda of Tanzania — the world’s last full-time hunter-gatherer tribe — hunting wasn’t viable. Most of their energy source came from honey and the tribe would burn up a lot of energy in a bid to get to this honey. By contrast, today, honey is readily available — and because it’s high in sugar it’s something we need to consume only occasionally.
The same physiological theories apply to summer fruits. Traditionally, the sunny season was a time when we increased our physical activity and so were able to eat many of the delicious, in-season fruits. That’s why it’s important to move our bodies each and every day throughout these warmer months.
Other stars of warm-weather eating, which are full of beneficial nutrients, are vegetables that contain powerful phytonutrients known as beta-carotenes. Think of those vegies that are bright, colourful and a deep, dark green: from carrots, beetroot and red capsicum to kale, broccoli and pumpkin. All these contain very high levels of beta-carotene, which comes from plants and is a precursor for vitamin A.
Vitamin A’s other precursor, retinol, comes from foods such as fish, liver and eggs. Both forms are important for achieving better health, but good digestion is needed to convert beta-carotene into its usable form of vitamin A.
That’s why fermented veg are key: they are full of bacteria known as lactobacillus, which helps to restore gut flora. Then, in turn, the healthy gut environment helps the body to absorb more nutrients from the foods we eat.
Seafood & salad
To me, nothing says summer more than a raw fish and vegetable salad. This summer, we’ve been making a quick and easy Asian ceviche salad that combines finely sliced snapper fillets, colourful cabbages and medicinal herbs — mint, coriander, Thai basil — with a coriander dressing featuring ginger, lime and garlic. It’s the definition of a mouth party!
As well as enjoying a bounty of fresh, raw seafood, in-season vegies that are vitality-giving and vibrantly coloured are best served raw — and, for me, there’s no better pairing than seafood and a fresh seasonal salad.
Another massive favourite in our house is squid salad with fennel and burnt lemon. I like to cook this one outside on the barbie. It’s a quick, easy throw-together (great for the middle of the week) and it tastes utterly delicious. I really like cooking with squid in the summer because it only takes a few minutes to sear, become tender and take on a smoky flavour.
Seasonal eating at this time of year to me means packing lots of good-quality, sustainable seafood into my diet. For years, research has shown how regular consumption (considered to be two to three times a week) of omega-3s, which are abundant in oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, help to support the brain’s development through every age and stage of life.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also proven to protect against cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes. And more and more research is being done into their role in the prevention of other chronic modern-day diseases because of these fatty acids’ ability to effectively bring inflammation under control.
For these reasons, one of my favourite summer dishes right now is grilled sardines with chilli, oregano and lemon. I love sardines because, along with the fact that they are full of omega-3s and calcium, they are also a sustainable seafood and are delicious grilled on the barbie with a tasty herb marinade.
With the sun still warming us, I encourage everyone to enjoy the best kitchen of all: get outdoors, cook on the barbecue and enjoy shopping (and foraging!) for the freshest, most nutrient-dense food available.
There are so many interesting, light and fresh flavours among the huge bounty of ingredients that are abundant right now, and I reckon there’s no better time to take advantage of such a rich seasonal bounty.
Cook with love and laughter,
Asian Ceviche Salad
Serves: 2, as a main
Prep time: 10 mins
Raw Beetroot Salad
Serves: 3–4, as a main
Prep time: 20 mins
Japanese Beef Tataki
Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 5 mins (plus 4 mins resting time)
Grilled Sardines with Chilli, Oregano & Lemon
Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 3 mins
4 delicious and healthy recipes for seasonal eating
Eating food that is in season is not only better for the planet, it is better for you, too.
- 1 large beetroot, grated
- ½ bunch frisee, leaves separated
- 1 bunch broccolini, woody ends trimmed & thinly sliced
- 4 stalks kale, stems discarded & leaves torn
- 3 tbsp roughly chopped activated walnuts
- 1 large handful mixed fresh herbs (mint, flat-leaf parsley, dill, chervil)
- Seeds ½ pomegranate
- 3 tbsp goji berries (optional)
- Tahini dressing
- 3 tbsp hulled tahini
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- Pinch each sumac & ground cumin
- Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
- To serve
- 4 soft-boiled eggs, peeled & halved
- Sesame seeds, toasted (optional)
- To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk well.
- To make the salad, place all ingredients in a large bowl. Add the dressing and gently toss until everything is evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper.
- Arrange the salad on a platter then top with the eggs. Season with more salt or pepper, if desired, and sprinkle on sesame seeds (if using) to finish.