Remember, remember, the 5th of November, or Bonfire Night as it is known in Britain. What’s interesting is that this is one particular celebration or commemorative day that there does not appear to be any particular food associated with, perhaps because it isn’t an American celebration. We celebrate everything with food. There must be some marshmallows or chestnuts roasting or potatoes baking in those bonfires somewhere.
So what foods do we have in season to celebrate with in November?
In-season fruit choices include apples, clementines, cranberries, pears and tangerines. Vegetable choices that should be at reasonable prices include Brussels sprouts, squash (acorn, butternut, buttercup, Hubbard, and more), carrots, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potato, turnips and cabbage (red, green and white).
The highlights of these fruits and vegetables include:
The sweet potato in particular is a good choice to include in your diet for a number of reasons. Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A, beneficial for healthy eyes and skin. It is also a good source of vitamin C which helps absorb iron from iron rich foods and encourages strong bones. Sweet potatoes are often confused with yams, but the two vegetables are very different. Sweet potatoes are from the Morning Glory plant family and yams are from the Yam plant family. Yams have white-colored flesh, are dry, starchier and are larger than the moist, orange colored sweet potato.
Turnips are nutritious root vegetables sought after in a variety of cuisines across Europe, Asia, and Eastern American regions. It is one of the cool-season vegetables belonging within the broad Brassicaceae family, which also includes cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, etc. Turnips are very low calorie root vegetables, containing only 28 calories per 100 grams. However, they are very good source of anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins and dietary fiber.
Rutabaga, another root vegetable, is closely related to turnips. Rutabagas are larger, more round, mostly feature yellow color flesh, and sweeter than turnips.
Although winter squash has long been recognized as an important food source of carotenoids, recent research has shown that winter squash is the primary food source of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. For lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin (three other health-supportive carotenoids) winter squash also comes out among the top three food sources in several studies.
Seeds from winter squash make a great snack food, just like pumpkin seeds. If you scoop the pulp and seeds from inside the squash and separate out the seeds, you can place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and lightly roast them at 160-170 degrees in the oven for 15-20 minutes. By roasting them for a relatively short time at a low temperature you can help minimize damage to their healthy oils. Linoleic acid (the polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid) and oleic acid (the same monounsaturated fatty acid that is plentiful in olive oil) account for about 75 percent of the fat found in the seeds.
Winter squash is thought of as a starchy vegetable with about 90 percent of its total calories coming from carbohydrate. About half of this carbohydrate is starchlike in its composition. Recent research has made it clear that all starch is not the same. The starch content of winter squash brings along with it some key health benefits. Many of the carbs in winter starch come from polysaccharides found in the cell walls. These polysaccharides include pectins — specially structured polysaccharides that in winter squash often include special chains of D-galacturonic acid called homogalacturonan. An increasing number of animal studies now show that these starch-related components in winter squash have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, as well as anti-diabetic and insulin-regulating properties.
Fresh cranberries are a very versatile fruit. They are high in vitamin C, fiber and help maintain a healthy digestive system. Their tartness blends well in sauces, juices, pie fillings and as an accompaniment to poultry dishes. Cranberries can be frozen for later use. Dried cranberries are sweet and can be used in baking cakes, muffins and cookies.
Pears are available in varieties that include Anjou (red and green) Bartlett and Bosc, the ones most common to our food market. Pears have been recognized as one of the 20 most popular fruits by the Food and Drug Administration. They are an excellent source of dietary fiber, and a good source of vitamin C for just 100 calories a serving. As with most fruit they are sodium, fat and cholesterol free.
Clementines come in a variety of different sizes. The smallest are about three inches in diameter, and the largest can reach about five. They have a bright orange outer rind and inside the fruit is a lighter color orange with white fibers separating the fleshy parts of between 8 and 14 wedges. Clementines are seedless. In 1997, orange harvests in Florida were damaged during a particularly harsh winter. This created a surge in clementine popularity, which continues throughout the United States today.
Clementines are a good source of antioxidants, including vitamin C and limonene, protecting the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals.
Other items that are in season include chestnuts, garlic, walnut, turkey and wild mushrooms.
Butternut Squash and Apple Gratin
3 cups diced peeled butternut squash
1½ cups diced peeled firm Gala apple (or variety of your choosing)
3 tablespoons dried sweetened cranberries
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup orange juice
½ cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 9-inch pie plate with nonstick cooking spray. Steam squash in steamer basket for about 5 minutes or until tender. Combine squash, apple, cranberries, walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix gently. Pour in orange juice, mix and then spoon evenly into prepared pie plate. Cover and bake 20 minutes or until squash and apple are fork-tender. Meanwhile combine the bread crumbs and butter in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over apple mixture and bake uncovered for 10 additional minutes or until topping is golden brown.
Nutrition information per serving: 150 calories, 5 grams fat, 3 grams protein, 26 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber.
Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian and adjunct nutrition instructor at Eastern Maine Community College who lives in Athens. Read more of her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.