We associate most holidays with specific foods, and as it turns out, often, those celebratory foods offer us a particular type of healing much needed for that season. Fall is a transitional time of really slowing down and changing where we spend most of our time, the type of activities we do, amount of sleep and how we eat. So many changes at once cause the all too familiar season of colds/flu/bronchitis..... we are vulnerable. Eating certain foods though, can help us keep and build strength, enhance our immune systems and allow us to ease into seasonal change. Winter is the time to utilize heavy spices for health, but Fall offers us the last goodies from the garden--those that are late to mature and easy to store: squash, pumpkins, potatoes, grapes,turnips, artichokes, carrots, beets (and their greens), apples. All of these foods are carbohydrate based and know how to store energy. When we eat them (with their skins ON), they can help stabilize our blood sugar, enable us to feel happy when it is dark and dreary, and the yellow/orange varieties aid our liver in coping with the various tasks seasonal change requires our bodies to go through. Halloween foods aren't just for one night--they can sustain us through this volatile change from warm/sunny, to damp/rainy/snowy/dark.
Fall is my favorite time of year---being born in October and being of Celtic origin--I LOVE the darkness, clouds and cooler temperatures, but I am not exempt from all the common health complaints. All around me are colds and allergies and plenty of digestive upsets-- caused largely by the weather changes and our bodies attempts to switch gears, while we try to continue on day after day as if no changes are required. Can't fool Mother Nature!!!
As you prepare for Hallows Eve, think of many of the "Treats" as your key to staying healthy.
It is always such a waste to carve pumpkins--all that nice potential pumpkin pie filling just sitting and rotting-----but Jack-O-Lanterns are well worth it. I have carved some every year of my life, starting with my Grandpa carefully carving in the basement, later with my own kids and even after they left home. Now it has come full circle, carving with my grandson. But, I tend to overdo and one or two pumpkins is never enough--it ends up being more like 8-10. The last two years have not been kind to pumpkin growing in my area, so I had to BUY them!!! Still, this year I got five and all of us will carve one--maybe a face on each side of the pumpkin. First, though, comes the scooping out of all those nutrition packed seeds. High in minerals, they are fantastic for fertility and reproductive organs (especially men's prostate), they aid in expulsion of the normal parasites we all carry, a great source of protein...and the taste good!!! Still they start out as a slimy pile in a bowl. Then what? Some people rinse them really well to get all the long, attached bits of pumpkin meat off. I do a quick rinse in a collander, but I leave the pumpkin meat. It is not pretty, but roasted, it is delicious. After rinsing, they are spread on a big, lipped cookie sheet, a bit of oil is added to coat them and some kosher/celtic/sea salt or Bragg's Amino Acid (which tastes just like soy sauce). The amount of saltiness is up to you! then , the pans are placed in a 350 oven for about an hour. Every 5 mins or so, I use a wooden spoon to give them a stir and every 15 mins., I rotate the pans. They are done when they are browned and dry---which is close to burned--so watch out the last 10 mins. Let them cool completely and store in an airtight container. We have a bowl on the table to munch on whenever.
Dead Man's Eyes
We all know that bowl is full of peeled grapes! We grow Concords because they make the best jelly and wine, but their skins also come off really easy. Concords are sweetest when you put them up to your lips and pop the contents out of the skin and into your mouth--quickly--and then swallow the innards whole--no chewing!! Whatever type of grape you like, they are perfect Fall foods--full of circulatory healers (especially dark/red grapes), Vit C, many minerals and they sort of help to re-boot your digestive ract. even with concords, I try to eat some of the skins, but I also make a lot of jelly, where the skins are simmered and pretty much squeezed dry, allowing many of their good constituents to survive the process and end up in grape juice or jelly. The juice can be frozen for future use and jelly keeps itself.
Lots of sugar goes into baked goods, but the sweetener of choice makes a difference in nutrition... as does moderation. I always use organic, turbinado, light brown or demerara sugars. All still contain the B vitamins the body needs to process sugars well. The pumpkin "goo" has lots of Vit A and liver healing nutrients....and the spices.....much of the immune boosters you need. In addition to nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger in my foods, I also like to simmer them on the woodstove to help cleanse the air of germs....and it smells cozy...and did you know that pumpkin pie spice was the #1 aphrodisiac scent for men?
Apples are a perfect food because they can be used so many ways--sweet and savory concoctions, sweet and dry/hard ciders, they keep well and they are good for you!
We bought a cider press and love making our own cider when spring/summer weather has cooperates. From the sweet cider, you can go on to make hard cider and then, apple cider vinegar. You can feed the pulp to livestock or add to the compost bin. The difference between cider and apple juice is astounding--largely because the pressing process allows for much of the pulp and skin fiber and nutrients to remain. Cider, though, is the second wave. Cider apples are those that are blemished and snall. The nicer apples are made into sauce--and frozen into mangeable batches--later thawed for simple eating or as additions ot applesauce bread/cake and as oil substitutes in baked goods. A lot of the healing in an apple comes from the skin and the thin layer right under the skin, providing roughage and an entire alphabet of vitamins/minerals. Bob for apples....but eat them afterwards!!
On Hallows Eve, we remember our ancestors and show reverence for where we all must eventually go, but also take joy in our lives. Honor the day and season by slowing down, resting, taking time to reflect and heal.... and by looking to the foods that show us that energy CAN be stored for later use.....and that saved energy can be delightfully sweet.