Our lives, routines, and feelings of wellness tend to fluctuate with the seasons. As the southern hemisphere reaches out towards the sun - Our days in turn, grow shorter. The intensity of sunlight reaching us weakens, and as many other animals begin preparing themselves to undergo hibernation & migration by stockpiling calories. It's in our best interest to stockpile the nutrients and vitamins that we will naturally begin to see less of over the coming autumnal and winter months.
'A recent study by BetterYou found that 19 per cent of British adults have low levels of vitamin D, and this is particularly problematic in autumn and winter. “Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is key for the maintenance of minerals such as calcium and phosphorus,” nutritionist and author of Re-nourish, Rhiannon Lambert, explained to The Independent. “It also helps absorb calcium which plays a vital role in forming and maintaining strong bones.” - Rachel Hosie
During September and October, try to spend 5-15 minutes outside in the sunlight each day, whilst the sun is at its highest ( between 11a.m - 3p.m ) This will help your body to store vitamin D.
You can also try to eat foods rich in Vitamin D; eggs, milk and ricotta cheese (which has five times more vitamin D than any other) are all rich sources. Mushrooms are a great plant based source of many nutrients, shiitake mushrooms for example contain a good amount of iron, vitamin B complex, and vitamin D, whilst chanterelles are highly sought after and justifiably so with by far the highest natural levels of vitamin D content found in edible British flora. All mushrooms contain a 'pro-vitamin' or precursor, called Ergosterol that is converted into vitamin D when exposed to ultraviolet radiation. Much like the way in which our skin synthesises vitamin D in response to sun exposure. Foraged, wild mushrooms have the added benefit of long durations of exposure to sunlight - where farmed may have been grown under artificial lighting and therefore contain a lower concentration of vitamin D content.
Autumn is a wonderful time for foraging in the UK, whilst our hedgerows are fruitful and abundant. Foraging has proven good for us on many levels, by reconnecting us to nature it facilitates improved mental and physical health, provides a sustainable food source, and of course provides it for free! Ethnobotanical researcher, forager and wild food educator Robin Harford suggest that you can greatly expand your plant-based diet because nature offers much more variety than supermarkets, having recorded at least 700 edible wild plants in the UK (Brits typically consume no more than 30 domestically farmed ones). Find Robin's generously shared recipes, tips and free guides to foraging here: www.eatweeds.co.uk
Photography courtesy of Irina Kostenich
Top foraging picks for Autumn:
Mushrooms; Chanterelles, Ceps, Cauliflower fungus, common morels & giant puffballs - Are all native and a deliciously edible source of vitamin D. (A brief mushroom guide here)
Dock leaves - Picked when young dock leaves are an excellent source of both vitamin A and vitamin C, as well as a source of iron and potassium. But be warned, they're can become extremely bitter as the plant matures.
Blackberries - full of vitamins and minerals C, K, and manganese, high in fibre and are considered a brain boosting health food.
Elderflower - The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine suggests that triterpenes might be the active ingredients in elderflowers, although they also contain flavonoids and phenolic acids. Additional potentially beneficial components include small amounts of minerals, sterols, mucilage, pectin, protein, linoleic acid and volatile oils. Whilst not clinically proven, elderflower has historically been used for it's medicinal healing properties and pungent floral flavour.
Rosehips - The red fruit of the rose plant, is full of antioxidants and vitamin C. Add them to a cup of tea, turn them into jam or marmalade.
A little reminder that as plants begin preparing themselves to be dormant over the winter months... Fermenting vegetables & stewing fruits can help us to harness and prolong the effects of the vitamin rich produce that we find in abundance as we transition from late summer into autumn.
Here are some of our favourite seasonal recipes and learning resources:
Plums and preserves - Click here
Elderflower and pistachio cake - Click here
Blackberry, apple and maple crumble - Click here
Wild garlic kimchee - Click here
Sautéed wild mushrooms - Click here
Nettle and barley risotto - Click here