Insights by Goldie: As the season turns, return to the new seasonal fare

by Goldie Caughlan

This article was originally published in November 2007

I’m always reluctant to leave behind the fruits and vegetables of summer with their wild neon colors and intensely bright flavors.

I can’t seem to get enough of the delicate, juicy, heirloom tomatoes, the tender-crisp green beans, slender summer Japanese eggplants, and salads with sliced cucumbers, little French or breakfast radishes, and tender leaf lettuces or crunchy Romaine.

I confess, my family has munched through many mounds of hot, buttered corn-on-the-cob — and sometimes called that supper!

Yet even as I wallow in memories of these sensual summer and autumn pleasures, I know we’ve entered the season-straddling phase. All my senses are quickened now, heightened by the bounty of new Washington apples and pears, gorgeous Sugar Pie pumpkins and bins overflowing with hard-shelled winter squash in every shape and size!

For a few short, overlapping weeks we can revel in having it all, while being happily wooed by the autumn and winter palette and palate, pulling us firmly over into fall and soon winter.

As daylight diminishes and heavy rains and colder weather settle in, the moist fragrances and textures in local gardens and parks work their own special magic on our senses. Both living foliage and fallen leaves reflect and repeat the same calming hues of muted golds, reds and greens that also visually distinguish most winter vegetables and fruits from those of summer varieties.

If we pause briefly in a vibrant fall garden (or any plentiful PCC produce aisle) and just breathe in the earthy fragrances, touch the textures of plants and feast with our eyes, the associations blend as we fall under the spell of the season.

As birds wing southward in pursuit of warmth, our flights of food fancy intuitively also take off — seeking the warm, satisfying rewards of shifting our ingredients, menus, meal patterns and methods of preparing foods to be in tune with the turning of the seasons.

I’ve already stowed away most summer clothes in exchange for warmer attire and more layers to ward off the season’s chill. I’ll be preparing more slow-simmered stews and soups, breathing in the homey flavors, and enjoying the extra warmth in the kitchen.

The squashes I’ll add to soups or oven-roast will be various gnarly, golden or green hard-shelled winter varieties, replacing the zucchini or sunburst types I enjoyed raw in salads, as quick-sautés or grilled all summer. Now I’ll seldom choose the delicate, leafy lettuce greens since their season is past locally, but I’ll anticipate their reappearance in May.

Instead I’ll now be making my daily salads with combinations of four or five raw vegetables, and usually some apples or pears. I’ll choose from stalwarts that contain the highest levels of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and many powerful cancer-fighting nutrients.

The list of choices is long, including several kales, collards, Swiss chard, spinach, arugula, broccoli, cauliflower, purple cabbage, bok choy, napa and other cabbages, and parsley. Frequently I’ll include one or two raw turnips, carrots, rutabagas, beets and/or Jerusalem artichokes, either grated or thinly sliced.

These all are typically referred to as fall and winter produce staples. But in our cooler year-round maritime climate — and in recognition of their extraordinarily potent nutrients — many are all-year staples with PCC shoppers, found in our favorite deli selections and produce aisles.

My winter menus also will make very creative and delicious uses of other powerhouse vegetables, including all the potatoes, yams and sweet potatoes, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, leeks, onions, garlic, shallots and ginger root.

Collectively, such superior vegetables — together with whole grains, legumes, herbs, spices, nuts and seeds — form the foundation foods that we build upon. They also warm, fuel and sustain us as they boost and protect our immune system in the colder and often stressful celebratory season ahead.

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