For many years I heard the words “local” and “seasonal,” and assumed they were good things without going deeper into why. I understood that any non-seasonal food had to be brought from abroad and therefore probably wasn’t the best thing for the environment. I also understood that local, seasonal food had a shorter travel time between the farm and my table, and hence preserved more of its nutrients.
It wasn’t until about a year ago, when I studied nutrition, that I realized what a huge impact eating local and seasonal has in our health. Will you die if you eat tropical fruits in the New York winter, or roasted Brussels sprouts in the Caribbean? No. You won’t. But will you get sick? Possibly. And will you feel physically or mentally out of balance, even if ever so slightly? Most likely.
Here’s the thing: certain foods have warming qualities that are precisely what our bodies need in the winter. They are rich in vitamin C and other nutrients that will help us fight colds. Other foods are extremely cooling, and help us keep the perfect balance in our bodies so that the high summer temperatures don’t cause too much discomfort, and so that we feel like going out, exploring, and having fun under the sun. Coconuts, cucumbers, and tomatoes are a few examples. Why do you think tomatoes are so gorgeous during that time of the year? In the Spring, the abundance of bitter foods such as arugula, artichokes, and radishes aid the liver’s detoxifying process, as this is the time of the year when this organ is the most active. This gets us ready for a light, expansive, and enjoyable summer.
Like Spring, Fall is another season of transition that slowly reintroduces cold temperatures, wind, and dryness into our lives. As such, the foods harvested at this time are contracting and warming, they help protect our lungs and are ideal for soups and stews that will keep us moist during this dry time of the year. If you eat this season’s harvest, you will be better equipped to face the winter both physically and emotionally. Your immune system will be stronger and you will be less likely to feel the winter blues.
What’s in season right now? Well, it depends on where you live. But most likely apples, pears, walnuts, pumpkins, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and root vegetables of all kinds. If you want a list by state, go to the seasonal food guide at SustainableTable.org.
If you want to start eating seasonally, here’s one of my favorite pumpkin stews ever. This dish is called Locro in Peru, and it’s usually made with cheese instead of tofu and milk. This version is better suited for the season, however, as dairy is another phlegm-producing food that you will be better off avoiding in the next few cool months.
Seasonal Pumpkin Locro
Prep time: 40 minutes
2 tablespoon olive or coconut oil
1/3 white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups cubed pumpkin (any kind you want)
2 cups cubed organic potatoes (I like them unpeeled because the skin is full of nutrients)
2 teaspoons ají amarillo paste (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3 cups water
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup organic frozen corn
1 cup cubed firm tofu (make sure it’s organic, non-GMO)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1.Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion and garlic for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the pumpkin, potatoes, ají amarillo paste, salt, pepper, and cumin, and stir for another minute.
- Add the water, bring to a boil, cover, and lower the heat. Cook until the veggies are soft (about 20 minutes).
- Add the peas and corn to the pan, stir, and cook for another 3 minutes.
- Sprinkle the tofu and parsley on top, stir, and serve.