Seasonal Eating for Summer

Aug 20, 2015

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

How is your summer?

I’m in the midst of my Sweet & Simple Summer Detox series, which has been a flurry of learning-curves and activity; at the same time, I’ve stopped drinking coffee as part of my own detox, which has lent a gentle, drifty energy to my days.

The days are slowly getting shorter, but the gardens are still in full harvest mode, so let’s explore what it means to eat seasonally in the summertime.  (Any excuse to write about vegetables!)

Seasonal Eating For Summer

If you’re curious about what it means to “eat seasonally,” summer is the easiest place to start.  Head to a local farmers market (or farm) and look around: all this bounty is in season now.

Here at the end of summer in DC, there aren’t many lettuces, and even the kale has faded a bit (it will be back in the fall).  The tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and summer squash are piled high.  We’ve got tomatillos, cucumbers, and all sorts of herbs.  The last of the blueberries are making way for the peaches, nectarines, and plums.

Step one: eat more vegetables and seasonal fruits.  The variety and timing will depend on where you live – fine tune “seasonal” by adding in “local.”

Step two: understand the weather and how that affects your need for protein and fat.  Protein and fat are macronutrients, which means you must eat them, or you will die.  All humans need protein, fat, and carbohydrates (vegetables, fruit, grains).

On a very basic level, vegetables and fruits (especially) are cooling, while proteins and fats are warming.  Native Eskimos living in Alaska survived on a diet of 85% whale blubber.  This did not give them heart problems; it kept them alive by generating heat.  They were genetically and environmentally eating the perfect diet.

So during the hot summer, it’s possible that your body needs less fat and lighter proteins.  Which is a nice idea, because it leaves you time and space to eat all those vegetables!

Vegetable Challenge

Recently I spoke with a friend who is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  She told me about the Wahls Protocol, which has helped her to improve her health immensely. Have you heard of it?  Dr. Wahls suffered from MS and her health degenerated until she was in a wheelchair.  She’s a scientist, so she started researching foods that supported nerve health.  Now she’s out of the wheelchair and fully functional.

Here’s the TED talk she gave.

What I found most inspiring about her journey was the amount of vegetables she recommends:  9 cups per day.  That’s 3 dinner plates of vegetables.  Leafy greens, onions & garlic, colorful vegetables like sweet potatoes.  It makes me so happy to think about it, and to challenge myself to truly up my vegetable game in a good way.

Even if you are not suffering with a chronic illness, the point is that vegetables do amazing things for humans.

Are you up for the challenge?  ‘Tis the season for it.

Recipe: Ratatouille

I had a gigantic squash and needed to do something fun with it, so I experimented with ratatouille, a traditional way to mix up all your summer bounty.  This is a mix & match from several different recipes.  It seems the “trick” is to cook each vegetable separately.
Here’s another trick: you can put tomatoes into the freezer if you won’t use them before they start to go bad.  I used half fresh and half frozen tomatoes for my ratatouille.  I just tossed the frozen ones in whole, because I’m lazy like that.

1-2 eggplants: peel if desired, chop into bite-sized pieces, place in a colander over a bowl or in the sink, and toss with sea salt.
2 onions: chop
1-3 zucchini: chop into bite sized pieces
2 red or green peppers: chop into bite-sized pieces
3-4 tomatoes: chop (or see above)
3-4 cloves garlic: mince
1 bay leaf
4 fresh sprigs of thyme
optional: dash or cayenne or 1 small hot pepper, seeded
freshly ground black pepper and sea salt
Olive oil
Fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons

Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a large pot.  Heat over medium/ medium-high heat.
Add black pepper and onions; sauté til they’re soft.  Remove onions from the pot.
Add a tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the zucchini; remove it from the pot.
Add a tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the peppers; remove them from the pot.
Rinse the eggplant and squeeze it to remove liquid.  Add a tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the eggplant.  Remove it from the pot.
Add another tablespoon of olive oil: sauté the garlic (and hot pepper if using) for a minute, then add tomatoes, thyme, and bay leaf.  Cook til the tomatoes become soft.
Add all the vegetables back in and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer for up to 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The longer it cooks, the more it breaks down into a comforting stew-type concoction.
Remove the bay leaf and the thyme stems.
Add basil leaves and serve.

Recipe: Peach & Tomato Salad

I made this one up; it was a big hit at a barbeque.

2 peaches, cut into ½ inch pieces
4 tomatoes , cut into ½ inch pieces, OR a pint of cherry tomaotes, halved
8 basil leaves, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh local feta cheese
a dash of lemon juice
a dash of freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together.