With so many of us enjoying staycations in the UK this year, it provides the perfect opportunity for us to fully enjoy all the glorious foods currently in season right here.
Everything tastes better when we eat foods at the time of year nature intended. In fact, foods tend to come into season at exactly the right time for our bodies to gain the most benefits from their nutrients when we need them.
Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer gives us a taste of what’s on offer this season.
With so many people now enjoying ‘growing their own’ in allotments or gardens, runner beans are a great ‘go-to’ vegetable. After the initial work involved of creating a support network for the growing beans, the results are well worth the effort.
Runner beans are closely related to other beans, referred to as legumes, including black and pinto, but contain less calories. And whilst they all contain some of the same nutrients, the greenness of runner beans means their chlorophyll content is high. Chlorophyll is often referred to as the ‘blood of life’ because it helps to naturally cleanse the blood but also provides a range of vitamins and minerals.
Runner beans also deliver a good source of vitamin C and bone and heart-loving vitamin K. However, their overall strong nutrient content can be easily diminished from over cooking, therefore lightly steaming is always best and will retain their crispness.
Whilst not always the quickest of vegetables to prepare, artichokes deliver some wonderful and unique health benefits, so patience will be rewarded. Globe artichokes need the tough outer leaves removed, together with the inedible fibrous ‘choke’ in the middle, revealing the edible heart. The active compound in artichokes is called cynarin which is great at detoxifying the liver. Research also suggests they are supportive of heart health, helping reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Importantly, artichokes help replenish the friendly gut bacteria that is so essential for good overall health. They need around 30 minutes of gentle boiling until softened and when cooled are great simply served with vinaigrette and lemon juice. Alternatively, they’re delicious grilled when cut in half lengthways.
Mackerel is often referred to as a very ‘fishy’ fish because it has a strong flavour. Mackerel is a fantastic source of the super-healthy omega-3 fats. The body can’t make omega-3s, so they must be eaten regularly in the diet, and we know that as a nation we are incredibly deficient. Omega-3s are needed for a healthy heart, brain, eyes, hormones, and joints so they’re pretty important! It is recommended that we eat at least two portions of oily fish per week to get what the body needs.
Mackerel is often sourced in UK waters or from the North Atlantic or Mediterranean. It’s strong flavour, and oily texture, means it can be simply served with lemon and herbs or with a fresh salad that includes sweet tomatoes.
Whilst plaice is available throughout the year, it is generally much fleshier and tastier at this time of year. As with all white fish, plaice is a great source of low-fat protein and is great for easy everyday meals grilled with other flavours. Indeed, since it has a subtle taste, it works well with stronger flavours of olives, tomatoes, spring onions, rosemary, and chives.
Plaice is also a good source of the mineral iodine which is often deficient in women and is essential for the growth of babies and children as well as being well utilised for cognitive function. Plaice certainly provides a low-cost, easy, and nutritious food option this season.
The season for plums is short so they need to be grabbed and enjoyed whilst they’re around. There are over 300 varieties of plum available, but it’s always good to choose the sweetest ones to avoid having to add too much additional sugar to a dish.
Their beautiful orange flesh signals plenty of beta-carotene which is turned into immune-boosting vitamin A as needed by the body. Plus, they’re rich in vitamin C and also tryptophan from which our body makes our happy hormone ‘serotonin’ – that’s something to smile about for sure! Even better, plums work really well in sweet or savoury dishes; try them in a crumble, with chicken, or simply poached with cinnamon and honey.
Many people perhaps don’t realise that prunes are dried plums, and both are therefore rich in essential fibre.
So, why not visit some local markets or farm shops this August and be sure to enjoy the season whilst it’s here!
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