Five ‘grow-at-home’ veggies to plant now for an autumn harvest

Growing your own produce in a garden, allotment or window box is the best way to ensure that the fruits and veggies you eat are fresh, organic and pesticide-free. It may sound like a lot of work but it can be easier than you think and your efforts will certainly be rewarded when you harvest your first home-grown crop.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top vegetables and herbs to grow now ready for autumn.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

BEETROOT

Variable weather means that crops generally need to dig deeper to protect themselves and to grow effectively which is why root vegetables are a great choice. One of the top root veggies from a nutrient perspective is the superfood beetroot.

If it’s energy you’re looking for then having some more beetroot in your diet can really help. Beetroot juice is very popular with athletes and recreational exercisers because it helps the body better sustain endurance activity. Plus, it’s rich in energy-giving iron and folic acid. If you start to sow beetroot seeds now, they should be ready for eating in about 90 days’ time.

ROSEMARY AND THYME

The perfect herb combination, no vegetable garden is complete without some herbs to complement your dishes, and these two can be grown in a pot together.

Rosemary is a delight in both lamb and chicken dishes and is very popular throughout Mediterranean countries: this may be partly due to it being a powerful antioxidant which can protect the body from strong sunlight. Rosemary may also act as a stimulant in both the nervous and circulatory systems and can help to soothe the digestive system, relieving indigestion and flatulence.

Thyme has an amazing aromatic flavour so is widely used in cooking. It’s been traditionally used as a decongestant to soothe coughs and catarrh – a great go-to herb if you’re plagued by autumn infections.

BROCCOLI

Not quite as deep-rooted as some other vegetables but certainly able to sustain slightly cooler climates, broccoli is another superfood, packed with nutrients. It needs to be sewn pretty soon though so that it doesn’t get damaged by frost slightly later in the year. Other than that, it’s fairly easy to cultivate in your home garden.

Broccoli is rich in vitamin C with a portion providing just over half of the recommended daily amount. However, boiling broccoli does reduce vitamin C quite significantly so it is best steamed or stir-fried. One of the great things about growing your own broccoli is that you can ensure its freshness. The stalks should be crisp and easy to snap; this make them ideal for dipping into some hummus as a tasty snack. Their beautiful dark green colour indicates plenty of beta-carotene, which is converted into immune-boosting vitamin A as the body needs it.

POTATOES

No self-respecting vegetable garden is complete without potatoes! They’re probably one of the easiest vegetables to grow. The only point to be aware of is not leaving them in the ground for too long. Whist it’s tempting to leave them until Christmas time, they’re best harvested in about 11 weeks’ time. And one should certainly not eat potatoes that are green or sprouted as these are poisonous in large amounts but can also cause migraines or tiredness, even in small quantities.

Potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C but this starts to drop as soon as they are lifted from the ground, hence another great reason for eating them straight from the garden. Potatoes can sometimes get a bad press as they’re high in carbohydrates but the main problem is that people often fry them which makes them high in fat. Jacket potatoes are very high on the glycaemic index as they’re very starchy. Roasting tends to use less fat than frying and steaming then mashing potatoes are a great, healthy alternative alongside any meat or chicken dish.

MARROW

Marrows are traditionally sown during May and June. However, our exceptional summer means soils are warm and if you’re quick you’ll get a crop harvested before the severe weather really sets in.

As marrow is very high in water, its nutritional content is not as good as some vegetables, but it’s great for alkalising the body. The body prefers to be in a slightly alkaline state generally, and many vegetables and fruit help this process along; marrow can certainly do this too.

It doesn’t have too much taste but comes to life when stuffed with other vegetables, sprinkled with cheese and roasted in the oven, or filled with a chili con carne mince; the two opposite flavours complement each other really well.

So maximise your garden and get growing! The nutritional benefits are really worth it, plus the satisfaction you will get from growing your own produce makes eating it all the more pleasurable.

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Celebrate ‘Best of British’ with these home-grown, nutrient-boosting foods

Once again, it’s British Food Fortnight which is the biggest annual, national celebration of British food and drink.  And there’s much to celebrate!  It’s  a chance for us to fully embrace great British foods on offer and those particularly in season right now. And eating seasonally means we are getting foods at their most nutritious.

With that in mind, Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five favourite British foods for autumn.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

DOVER SOLE

Although cod is still the most consumed fish in Britain Dover sole is many people’s favourite flat fish! Dover sole has a longer and narrower shaped body than other flat fish and delivers a wonderful, almost sweet taste, with flaky texture when cooked. And it’s good to know that British fish is always responsibly and sustainably sourced.

Aside from its delicious taste, Dover sole is super-healthy with only around 100 calories per 100 grams and very low in fat.  It’s also high in protein.  However, it’s all about the cooking because frying can really increase the calorie and fat content due to the high surface area of the fish. Dover sole is much better lightly seasoned with flour and then grilled.

APPLES

Think of autumn fruit and thoughts will always turn to apples. Whilst we see apples in the supermarkets all year round, British apples are now in season.  This means they should be cheaper and we’re also giving our bodies exactly what they need at the right time of year by eating seasonally. The flavour, texture and scent of in-season apples will also be enhanced.

Interestingly, imported apples are often stored for months in a cool environment where the oxygen balance has been chemically lowered.  This halts the natural maturing processes, so they can be kept for several months without going soft.  However, when the fruit is then exposed to normal temperatures, in the supermarket, it will mature quickly and go soft.  The longer storage times will lead to depleted nutrient levels in the fruit, especially vitamin C, so this is another great reason to eat in season!

Apples are so versatile in many recipes and make a perfect high fibre, on-the-go snack.  But with British pork also in season, roast pork with apple sauce would be an excellent menu choice.

POTATOES

Potatoes are a great staple family food; filling, high in vitamin C and fibre.  And they’re definitely best eaten in season and fresh, not only for the taste, but also for retaining vitamin C (which starts depleting as soon as potatoes are harvested).  Once bought, potatoes prefer to be taken out of their plastic packaging and not stored in the fridge.  They’re also best stored in a cool cupboard as they don’t like too much light.

Many people resist eating potatoes, worrying they are fattening.  But it’s often the lashings of butter, the frying, or the cream in a potato dauphinoise that adds the calories!  Whilst jacket potatoes have a high carbohydrate content, if they’re eaten with some protein such as tuna, for example, the meal has much less effect on blood sugar levels.  And as a potato’s best source of nutrients and fibre is found in the skin, it’s a win-win!

CHICKEN

Another staple in the British diet, chicken is certainly at its best during food fortnight and moving into the autumn season.  British chickens are very safe and are generally vaccinated against salmonella, a bacteria that can cause nasty food poisoning.  We’re actually very proud of our quality chickens and they must meet criteria based on the Assured Chicken Production standards; these products have a distinctive red tractor logo.

Recipe ways with chicken are endless and with its high protein content (more than fish) and being a low fat meat, it’s always going to be a popular choice for many of us.  Chicken also contains the whole family of B vitamins which provide us with energy.

In terms of taste, chicken works equally well with sharp flavours (think lemon chicken), spicy dishes (fragrant, Thai curries) or sweet recipes (such as sweet and sour chicken).

Chicken broth is also a firm favourite during convalescence, particularly after a viral infection such as the flu.  Chicken broth naturally works as a decongestant and is especially effective and nutritious when stock from boiled chicken bones are used.  It’s easy to digest, and is a great source of protein and energising vitamins.

PEARS

Another great British grown fruit, pears are totally delicious at this time of year.  Pears are one of the least allergenic foods and are well tolerated by nearly everyone.  They’re also very appropriate as a weaning food and in exclusion diets.  Moreover (just like apples), pears provide good levels of vitamin C, fibre from pectin and heart-loving potassium.

Pears are perfect in sweet or savoury dishes: try them with a blue or goat’s cheese salad, with chocolate in a pudding, in a crumble with blackberries or with duck breast pan-fried.

Whichever foods you choose, British foods in season are always going to be high quality and you’ll be supporting local and national businesses to ensure continuing high standards whilst getting the best levels of nutrition.

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

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Follow us on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and well-being tips.

Visit us at www.feelaliveuk.com for the latest offers and exclusive Alive! content.

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit Herbfacts