Persimmons - an Autumn Fruit

Shokuyoku no Aki by Milena McClure

Shokuyoku no Aki – Autumn Appetite

Have you noticed the days are getting shorter? The clouds are high and look like fish scales? The leaves on the trees are starting to change colour? Have you been thinking about food more than usual? Are you having cravings cheese, cake, hot chips, roasts and stews? If this is happening then you have Shokuyoku no Aki – Autumn Appetite.

As the temperature cools and the days grow shorter our bodies know it’s time to indulge in the summer harvest and store some energy for winter. Our modern urban lifestyles don’t necessarily recognise this natural inclination so we might wonder why suddenly food is the only thing we can think about towards the end summer. Don’t panic, it’s just a case of Shokuyoku no Aki and we benefit from taking in extra nutrients before the winter months.

Autumn is a popular season in Japan with its celebrated  foliage, Koyo, and seasonal produce. Traditional Japanese autumn foods such as persimmons, ‘mikan’ (mandarins), matsutake mushrooms, chestnuts, sweet potato,  pumpkins, roasted ginko nuts and grilled Sanma (Pacific Saury fish) are also rich in the nutrients needed to support immune health. Very important as the weather gets cooler and our bodies adjust.

Onabe –   Japanese hot pots –  are often enjoyed at this time of year too. These one-pot dishes are a mix of seasonal ingredients served boiling in a ‘nabe’ on a portable stove. Vegetables, meat, seafood, and tofu are topped up as you go and ponzu dipping sauce is used for extra flavour. At the end of the meal rice is added to make a porridge using the broth. Onabe is a nutritious, delicious and fun social way to store nutrients for winter.

Melbourne is a great city to indulge your Shokuyoku no Aki. So many harvest festivals and grower’s markets around town to enjoy seasonal produce picked at its prime. To find a market near you click on Melbourne Farmers Markets and check out the Harvest festival in Victoria’s High Country region if you have a chance High Country Harvest.

Local food to keep seasonal ills at bay:

  • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and green leafy vegetables are all very high in vitamin C and fibre and are very good for keeping the cold and flu virus at bay.
  • Root vegetables – carrot, sweet potato, potato, turnips, beetroots and parsnips are nutritious and  warming veggies to eat roasted, stewed or in soups.
  • Soups and stews – use a good natural bone, chicken or vegetable broth for the maximum health benefit to a soup. There are some good packaged broths on the market now if you don’t have time to make your own.
  • Vitamin D supports immune function and as the days get shorter you might not be getting enough of it. Foods rich in vitamin D include oily fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel, shitake mushrooms (matsutake mushrooms are hard to come by in Australia but are delicious if you can find them) and egg yolks.
  • Mandarins, grapes, figs and apples are all in season at this time of year.
  • Water – don’t forget to keep drinking even though the weather is cooler. Keeping hydrated also helps immune function. If you find it difficult to drink cold water when the weather is cool, try drinking it warm.

The odd bit of cheese cake or fatty indulgence won’t set you back as the seasons change but ultimately it’s best to steer your cravings in the right direction so you don’t end up dependant on sugar or processed fatty food hits through the winter. Eat hot roast potatoes instead of chips and keep cakes, pastries and sugary treats to a minimum. When craving sweets go for seasonal fruit such as grapes, mandarins, pomegranates  and persimmons to get the vitamin C hit your body is mostly likely craving.

Enjoy your appetite and feed it well!