Support local farmers and your health – find out what seasonal produce is available in February and how they are beneficial to your health. Why not give the delicious recipe a try too!
In collaboration with my local produce store – The Maulden Farm Shop – I’ll be writing a monthly blog to ‘big-up’ the seasonal produce we grow here in the UK in a mission to encourage local food love and support for our farmers.
I am so thrilled that the first vegetable I get to write about is one of my favourites. Not only do I eat aubergine weekly, but it inspired the colour for my brand (did you notice?).
Aubergines are part of the nightshade family. If we wanted to be really fussy it’s actually a berry, not a vegetable. They grow all year round in the UK (although they need a warm greenhouse in the colder months) and that shiny skin is completely natural.
The striking deep purple that’s so attractive is the result of antioxidants called anthocyanins. It gives all berries their rich colour and helps to prevent, and slow, the damage of our cells. Aubergines also contain B vitamins that support with energy. And fibre which acts as food for our microbiome (gut bacteria) helping to encourage a healthy digestive system. Loving them as much as I do now?
It feels very appt. to be including mushrooms in the seasonal winter picks. However, this also isn’t a vegetable – it’s a fungus. There are so many different mushroom species but even the common button mushroom packs a punch when it comes to its nutritional benefits.
The reason I like to bring attention to mushrooms in the winter is because they support our immune system. They contain a compound called beta-glucans that helps to activate a response from the immune system – increasing our defence against harmful bacteria and viruses.
Check out the previous blog for more tips on how to support your immune system.
Mushrooms also contain protein, vitamin D (they absorb it from the sun while they’re growing), B vitamins and minerals such as selenium, copper, phosphorus, potassium and zinc – another great supporter for immune health. Is that enough reasons to make them a part of your weekly shop?
Have you heard of this one before? If not, I’m sure you’ve heard of its family name – Kale. Kale is one of the few leafy greens that thrive in the winter months and has been a popular choice across Europe for over 2000 years.
Cavolo nero, also known as black kale or black cabbage, is part of the brassica family. Brassicas include the different cabbage varieties as well as broccoli, cauliflower and spouts.
If you’re not a fan of kale, you may prefer cavolo nero because the flavour is more subtle. And I encourage you to try it because not only is it a great source of fibre (remember those gut bacteria), calcium, magnesium and vitamins K and C, but it is also a source of isothiocyanates. In fact, the whole brassica family contain this incredible compound that induces phase II detoxification in our liver.
Curious to know more? The second phase of our liver’s detoxification process is when toxic substances are turned into less toxic substances ready for excretion out of our bodies. Many nutrients support this process but isothiocyanates is key. With that in mind, how lucky are we in the UK that growing brassicas (kale, cabbage, broccoli, sprouts, cauliflower, rocket, radishes, turnips) is so easy!
It wouldn’t be right to give all the attention to vegetables, so I’ll round off this month’s seasonal blog with one of the UK’s favourite orchard fruits. Pears often get overshadowed by apples, but they are just as versatile in recipes and their softer flesh is very appealing.
From a nutritional perspective, they provide more fibre than apples and contain pectin like apples too. Pectin is a type of fibre that works as a prebiotic, feeding our gut bugs and helping to:
- Increase the diversity of microbiome (gut bacteria)
- Improve the regularity of bowel movements
- Support production of short-chain-fatty-acids that play a role in our immune function
- Reduce gastric inflammation
- Enhance the intestinal immune barrier
- Balance blood sugar levels
- Lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels
There’s still a place for apples in your basket but why not find a spot for pears too, now you know how beneficial they are to your health.
February’s seasonal recipe
Aubergine, mushroom and cavolo nero spaghetti
- 2 tbsp and a drizzle olive oil
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or crushed (personal preference)
- 1 large onion or 2 shallots, sliced
- 1 medium to large aubergine, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 200g chestnut or button mushrooms, sliced
- 200g cavolo nero, stalks removed and leaves torn
- 1 tbsp mushroom paste
- 20g finely grated parmesan
- 150g wholewheat (or gluten-free) spaghetti
- A squeeze of fresh lemon (optional)
- Prepare all the ingredients (this is the secret to a meal cooked with ease).
- Heat the oven to 160degrees. Place the copped aubergine on a tray, drizzle with a little olive oil and cook for approximately 15-minutes until soft and brown.
- While the aubergines cook, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan over a high heat and cook the mushrooms for around 8-10 minutes, until cooked through. Place on a plate and set to the side to cool.
- Set the spaghetti to cook in water on the hob – take a minute off what the packet suggests to get it just right
- Return the (now empty) pan to a medium heat and add the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil with the onions or shallots, garlic and cavolo nero, and cook for 4 minutes.
- Add 1 tbsp of mushroom paste and cook for a further minute before removing from the heat and stirring in the mushrooms and aubergine.
- Drain the pasta once cooked – reserving a little water to add to the dish if you like a ‘wetter’ meal – and serve. Top with parmesan and a squeeze of fresh lemon.
Quick tip, massage your kale prior to cooking/eating. It helps to breakdown the cell walls so we can digest it easier and absorb the nutrients better.