Give your eating habits a fall tune-up by adopting these three simple habits: harvest your herbs, become a soup ninja, and become friends with fermentation.
As autumn gets under way in the Northern Hemisphere, here are three tips for transitioning out of summer and into the cooler weather. For our many readers from the Southern Hemisphere, I realize that it’ll be a few months before you can put these tips into action. In the meantime, here’s a tip on making the most of spring vegetables.
Fall Nutrition Tips
- Harvest your herbs.
- Become a soup ninja.
- Make a new fermented friend.
Let's fall further into each tip.
Fall Nutrition Tip #1: Harvest Your Herbs
Fresh and dried herbs are a terrific way to add both flavor and nutrition to foods. Herbs tend to have higher levels of antioxidants and other phytonutrients than other types of vegetables. So even though we tend to eat them in relatively small quantities, herbs can add a lot of nutrition to foods.
How to Dry Herbs
If you grew fresh herbs in your garden this summer (or bought them at your local farmers’ market), now is a great time to dry some to use over the winter. Herbs like thyme, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, dill, and tarragon can be tied in small bundles and hung upside down in a cool dark cupboard to dry. (If you stash them somewhere out of sight, put a reminder on your calendar to check on them after 5-6 days.)
As soon as they crumble easily off the stems, store them in airtight containers. Some nutrients are lost when fresh herbs are dried. But, because they are so potent to begin with, dried herbs can still be a great source of antioxidants and other nutrients. If they still have aroma and flavor, they still have nutritional value.
If, on the other hand, you have some herbs that have been hanging around your cupboard so long that you’d have a hard time telling what they were by the smell, it’s probably time to toss them out.
Don’t Dry These Herbs
Herbs like basil, parsley, and cilantro have almost no flavor when dried. For these, your best bet is to blend them with a small bit of oil into a paste. If you like, you can add grated cheese, garlic, and pine nuts or walnuts and make pesto. Pour the stuff into ice cube trays and freeze. Then place the frozen cubes into labeled plastic bags. Use them to add a burst of flavor to soups, stews, pasta, and vegetable dishes throughout the winter.
Don’t Forget the Seeds
If some of your herbs have gone to seed, you can harvest those as well and use them whole or ground. Cilantro seeds are better known as the spice coriander. Dill and fennel seeds are also highly aromatic and useful.
Fall Nutrition Tip #2: Become a Soup Ninja
Getting into the habit of making a big pot of soup every weekend is a great way to improve your nutrition all week long. Although they may take several hours to cook, soups usually require very little active time. And if you’re using a pressure cooker or slow cooker, they also need very little supervision while they are cooking. You can be watching the game on TV, outside raking leaves, or taking a nap. Come dinner time, it’s ready and waiting. Make enough so that you’ll have leftovers to take for lunch or to freeze for the future.
Try a hearty bean soup, a pureed root vegetable or winter squash soup, or an old fashioned chicken and veg or chili. You could literally make a different soup every weekend for the rest of your life and never run out of recipes. And yet the techniques involved are very simple. Once you’ve mastered a couple of basic formulas, it’s just variations on a theme.
Why not start this weekend? Post your photos and/or recipes on the Nutrition Diva Facebook page.