Welcoming Autumn

— Contributed by Carlota Sanchez


For the lands, and for these passionate days, and for myself,

Now I awhile return to thee, O soil of Autumn fields,

Reclining on thy breast, giving myself to thee,

Answering the pulses of thy sane and equable heart,

Tuning a verse for thee.

— Walt Whittman, ‘’A Carol of harvest for 1867’’

It was very difficult to accept (especially after a two-week holiday, enjoying sunny and warm Portugal) that Autumn was already here. It greeted us during our harvest festival, giving us a rainy morning and a sunny but cold afternoon. Nonetheless, we had a lovely day and welcomed the season back with blankets, our own cob oven pizza and hot chocolate.

Seasons not only have a great impact on soil and crops but they also have a profound impact in our minds and bodies. Chinese ancient traditions say that we are greatly influenced by the changes in climate and therefore should respect and live according to them. We adapt naturally to each season but preparing for these changes can make these transitions more balanced and harmonious. Choosing and cooking your food according to the seasons can be a great way to take on this process.

Called the harvest season, it’s the time to store fuel – food to get all the energy to embrace the long and cold winter, Autumn is the time to work on making pickles. Pickling is a very easy and accessible way to store food during the winter, as you don’t need many ingredients and it won’t take much of your time. This year I have made pickles for the first time using cucumbers grown in our now stripped and empty polytunnels, some of our own shallots and some purple carrots that I had got in my own VegBox. This made all the content in my jars look bright pink after just two days of fermentation.

I used a very simple recipe that I learned while attending the Whole Foods cooking course at Whole Food Harmony. Put simple, you just need to boil one litre of water with two tablespoons of salt. While the water comes to a boil, cut all the vegetables and place them in jars. Season your future pickles with herbs such as thyme or rosemary, you can use vinegar, lemon and garlic as well, or even cumin seeds and mustard seeds. Take the water off the heat and let it cool down to a lukewarm temperature before pouring it into the jars. After pouring in the water, close the jars as tight as possible and leave them to ferment for at least one week.

The list of the benefits of fermented foods is a long one – they can be a great contribute to a healthy digestive system, helping the formation of healthy bacteria, like Lactobacillus acidophilus for example, into the intestines. They also help the absorption of nutrients into the blood and regulate the levels of acidity in the stomach and intestines. Also, pickles can contribute to breaking down fat after heavy meals.

I wanted to make my pickles aromatic and sour, so I added garlic, ginger, rosemary and vinegar to the vegetables. The sour flavour in foods helps to improve the dissolution of minerals in digestion and it can also serve as a solvent to break down protein and fat. As for the strong aromatic flavour, this can be used as protection for the common cold, which is so closely related to the season, plus it helps to stimulate blood circulation.