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Eating Seasonally For Fall

Natural Times, October/November/December 2014

By Sandy Beck

In her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver chronicles her family’s yearlong experiment to only eat food that was raised locally or that they grew themselves. Luscious recipes and her husband’s sobering reflections on the food industry supplement Kingsolver’s poetic narrative. Never have I read a more compelling case to eat local, in-season foods.

Buying local, seasonal produce is a win-win-win situation—good for your health, your community and the environment. Not only do you have the freshest and healthiest fruits and vegetables, but you’re also supporting the local economy.

Years ago, my husband and I lived in a very old Miami house with towering avocado and mango trees. August through October, we feasted on their fruits—never tiring of guacamole, avocados stuffed with cottage cheese, and breakfast bruschetta with chopped avocado, tomatoes and fresh basil.

Mango smoothies, salsa and chutney as well as freshly cut mangoes in salads and over breakfast cereal are blissful. A dehydrator provided great mango snacks for months. Mango and lime combine for a memorable margarita, and frozen mango chunks are great in wine spritzers.

Living in North Florida, I sure miss this backyard bounty, but thankfully, South Florida’s groves are close enough that New Leaf can stock their produce department with these healthy, organic delights every fall.

Just as I developed quite a mango and avocado repertoire, I’ve also found it helpful to have a stash of creative ways to incorporate other seasonal produce into our meals. Here are some more of my fall favorites.

Zucchini—Try a variation on zucchini bread—zucado bread! Use a fresh avocado to replace the oil or butter. Schmear a little cream cheese on a slice, and you have a perfect, quick breakfast.

Mushrooms—I love the “meatiness” of Portobellos. Bake the big ones stuffed with sautéed greens and feta or Asiago. Combine Portobello, crimini and white mushrooms for a satisfying mushroom barley soup. Mix chopped mushrooms with kasha for kasha knishes. Blend mushrooms with cooked black beans, oatmeal, garlic and spices in a food processor, then sauté your homemade black bean-mushroom burgers.

Bell Peppers—Combine a rainbow of sliced bell peppers with mushrooms, potatoes, zucchini, squash and garlic in a roasting pan. Toss with olive oil and salt and pepper, and roast at 450 degrees Fahrenheit until slightly brown.

Squash and Sweet Potatoes—Toss sliced squash and zucchini with olive oil, garlic and grated Pecorino-Romano cheese, then bake. Substitute acorn squash and/or sweet potatoes for pumpkin in a pie; combine with kale or chard for an amazing soup; or cut in half and bake stuffed with wild rice, nuts and dried cherries.

Eggplant—Another tasty and versatile meat substitute, it works in everything from Italian to Asian recipes. Stir fry with tofu. Try an eggplant penne pasta salad with thinly sliced, roasted eggplant, garlic, grape tomatoes cut in half and fresh herbs.

Combine any fall vegetables—peppers, eggplant, squash—with mushrooms for a mouthwatering vegetable lasagna, curry, pizza, quiche or frittata.

Pumpkin—the orange orb we all think of as an autumn icon. Of course, there’s pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie. In her book (and on, Barbara Kingsolver shares a family recipe for cooking pumpkin soup in its own shell that will double as a festive centerpiece and the first course for your Thanksgiving dinner.

A Mother Earth News article, “Seasonal Eating Supports Local Farmers,” mused, “Synergism between season, farmer and patron is a dance that honors the natural ebb and flow of production.”

Bon appétite as you dance to the tune of our local farmers this fall.

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