As we’ve entered the cooler and slow growing season of Autumn. Resident Nutritionist at Mangaroa Farms, Lydia Thomsen highlights what veges are still in the ground from the summer months and what foods and nutrients to be mindful of this Autumn to keep us healthy.
What are we focussing on during Autumn?
While it initially doesn’t feel like we want to let go of summer (especially when there hasn't been much of one this year in particular!), our minds have turned to prepping beds and planting our cooler seasonal veg and herbs to keep us healthy over the colder months.
Fortunately you can still enjoy the last of the summer fruits and veggies. While the air temperature does drop a few degrees, soil temperature stays warm from months of the summer sun, which means seeds still have an opportunity to germinate relatively easily. With cool air temperatures and predictable levels of moisture, plants do not get as stressed as they would in the summer heat, which enables them to put energy into supporting their roots to absorb more nutrients. It’s no wonder root vegetables are far more abundant over the colder months! There is also less weed and insect pressure; not that we are completely out of the woods with the presence of the pervasive white butterfly!. Insect cloth and keeping up with our biological feeds for both the soil and plant health, ensures a healthy (and nutritious) crop when time to harvest.
With less sunlight available we are also thinking of ways to sustain the living organisms underneath our feet in the soil. Soil microbes are essentially the ‘gut flora’ of mother earth, which we need to support in order to grow healthy produce. Support for soil often involves keeping the soil covered as much as possible. We use cover crops, also known as ‘green manure’, as these are essentially temporary plantings that you grow to feed your soil (instead of feeding us). Specific plant species do this by feeding fungi and bacteria in the soil through the plant's exudates (carbohydrates or sugars exuded through the plant’s root systems that they make through photosynthesis). In return some fungi and bacteria will trade nutrients such as nitrogen or phosphorus to the plant’s roots.
At the moment we are cover cropping beds that are new and/or need extra nutrient support. Garden beds that have adorned tomatoes for a few months now will need extra nutrition since tomatoes are relatively heavy feeders, taking up lots of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium from the soil as they grow. Having lifted the wool based weed mat off, we are giving the soil microbes a head start broadcasting cover crop seed to provide extra nourishment and to minimise disturbing the soil structure when we remove tomato plants.
Why get excited about Autumn grown produce?
In order for us to adjust to cooler temperatures, our bodies naturally require more levels of vitamin C to support a healthy immune system. The good news is, many vegetables, herbs (and fruit) harvested during Autumn and the Winter months are high in Vitamin C and other essential minerals and vitamins. At Mangaroa Farms these include:
- The last of the tomatoes :)
- Pumpkin (Crown)
- Squash (Spaghetti)
See the available collection here: https://mangaroa.org/collections
Fresh fruits and vegetables are packed with more nutrients when grown and bought in-season than those bought out of season. This is because when fruits and vegetables are harvested, they undergo a process of respiration and transpiration, meaning they lose moisture quickly. With this loss of moisture, nutrients in the food begin to break down, especially water soluble vitamins such as Vitamin C. Furthermore Vitamin C breaks down when in contact with heat and light so minimal cooking time as well as using less water will help retain Vitamin C levels in your food.
Vitamin C is important during the colder months to help us fight inflammation - including staving off and recovering faster from infections (including healing wounds). However because we tend to cook more of these foods than eat them raw during the colder months, we actually need to eat more Vitamin C enriched foods to help meet a daily intake of at least 45 mg per day (but aiming for 200 mg per day) for fit and healthy people.
Stay tuned for more seasonal nutrition insights on what nutrients our bodies need during the colder months - including Zinc, Iron, Vitamin D, Calcium, Omega-3 fatty acids and Fermented foods - (yes to it being sauerkraut making season!)
What to keep an eye out for in the garden over the next few weeks:
- Onions - including red varieties
- Collards / greens - Spinach, Silverbeet
- Brassicas - Kale, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage (Red + White), Pak Choy & more!