The nights are drawing in, autumn is in full swing and winter on the horizon. If you get your vegetables from a supermarket, you won’t notice the change of the season so much, as everything is always available. But if you receive a weekly delivery of organic vegetables, which tend to be seasonal and local, you will begin to notice how the contents have changed since the summer.
Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
These are a great source of minerals such as magnesium and calcium, vitamins such as folic acid and vitamin K, and phytonutrients such as beta-carotene (most carotene-rich fruit and veg are red and yellow, but chlorophyll is masking the colour here).
Over the summer you would have been able to have lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard and watercress. Watercress is still here now, but the season will end soon. However, there’s no need to miss out on your green leaves over the winter: Kale is back! Kale is exceptionally high in carotenes, which you need to help build your immune defence, your eyes, your skin. It is a good source of calcium and has the ideal calcium-phosphorus ratio, which is relevant for healthy bones. Raw kale is a little chewy, but you can soften it by ‘massaging’ the dressing in and leaving it to stand for a little while. You can also use it to make green smoothies and – one of my favourite snacks – kale chips.
Of course, kale is not the only option: There’s still watercress, but beet and mustard greens, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are also available throughout the winter.
Green leafy vegetables also contain oxalic acid, a compound that binds to calcium to form kidney stones and can be toxic in high amounts. Normal consumption (even juicing) of green vegetables is generally considered safe, but if you are prone to kidney stones, you may want to take oxalic acid content into account.
Goodbye tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, cucumbers and aubergines, hello beetroot, turnips, swede, celeriac, and parsnips. My vegbox supplier recently stopped delivering the ‘salad box’ option, but offered customers the opportunity to switch to the ‘soup box’ option: a change that reflects the change in seasonal vegetables very well.
Roots are back. Roots are cheap, easy to use, full of flavour and nutrients and of course colour. If you regularly read my blog and newsletter you’ll know how important it is to eat a rainbow of vegetables. Together with your leafy greens, red, orange, purple, and white roots help you cover your requirement for antioxidants and phytonutrients.
If you think roots are boring, you may want to reconsider how to cook them: They don’t too well when boiled in water, but bake, roast, sauté or stew them, and you’ll have a whole new experience. You can even eat them raw: Just grate them then dress them up as a salad and sprinkle with nuts or seeds, season with herbs and you’re good to go. Vegetable stews and soups are warming and comforting winter dishes. Add protein in the shape of beans, chickpeas, meat or fish to slow down the glycaemic response (the rate at which your blood glucose rises after eating) as roots are higher in sugar than other vegetables.
For the same reason, make sure that you count roots within your glycaemic load: They should only cover ¼ of your plate and they will have to share that space with starchy carbohydrates foods, such as rice, pasta, or noodles, if using.
Onions and Leeks
They, too, are at their best now. Onions are an excellent source of vitamin C, B6, chromium and fibre and the phytonutrient quercetin. Onions help lower blood sugar, blood lipids and blood pressure. They help strengthen the immune system and fight cancer. Leeks have very similar properties, but you’d have to eat more of them than onions for the same effects. Both leeks and onions work well with root vegetables and add sweetness to the meal.
For ideas on what to do with winter vegetables, make sure to subscribe to Nutrilicious News in time for next week’s newsletter!