Autumn marks the transition from summer to winter. The leaves start to turn and a crisp chill creeps into the air, and Mother Nature’s health store is filled to the brim with vitamin-rich berries. From the lively red of rose hips to the silky black of elderberries, now is the time to get gathering and make your own pre-winter tonic. Try to prepare the best fall recipes for that new autumn breeze!
Beetroot (Beta Vulgaris)
In autumn there is often an excess of beetroot, making this the ideal time to stock up on this versatile root vegetable. Beetroot is a European reddish vegetable that has been mainly consumed raw or in salads. Not many people like their taste, but beets have numerous health benefits – for example, they can clean fat from your liver, prevent colon obstructions and help you regain your eyesight. And it doesn’t stop there!
Beets can improve your blood circulation and reinforce your cardiovascular system, while also providing your body with enough energy for the day. The vegetable contains betaine and tryptophan, rare substances that can calm down your nerves and fight stress. The anti-inflammatory properties of beets and their high antioxidant content can fight free radicals in your body and improve your overall health.
Recent research has revealed that drinking less than 300ml (1⁄2pint) of beetroot juice a day will help lower blood pressure levels.
The pigment in beetroot is known as betanin. It is strong and it stains and can be used as a food dye. The human body cannot easily break down this pigment, so it is excreted in urine, turning it the color pink.
Eating and Drinking Beetroot
Making a simple beetroot juice is a great way to obtain your beet goodness. Roughly chop and blend the beetroot in a juicer, then add a chunk of ginger for a spicy kick, as well as a squeeze of lemon to stop the juice from tasting too sweet.
Another way to prepare beetroot is to make a delicious beetroot, onion and apple chutney. This a bit less healthy as the juice due to the sugar content, but at least it will last all year. Making any chutney is easy: simply cut up all the ingredients, then boil them with sugar and vinegar, and in this case a little ginger and garlic.
Whole roasted beetroot is an easy way to eat beets, just add a little olive oil and a pinch of salt.
Rose Hip (Rosa Canina)
Rose hips – or haws – are fruits of the common wild dog rose, and are not only a vital seasonal food for birds but are also of great benefit to us. Country knowledge claims that rose hips are better when they have been softened by the first frost, but don’t wait too long to pick them or they will become shrunken shells
Rose hips have high levels of vitamin C and they are ideal for fighting colds and winter bugs. They also have anti-inflammatory properties, which may be beneficial for joint pain. Two Scandinavian studies into chronic joint conditions revealed reduced pain and increased mobility following a course of rose hip supplements.
Rosehip oil is a dry oil and is good for repairing damaged skin, for calming sensitive skin, and for fighting skin infections such as blackheads.
How to Prepare Rose Hip Syrup
Making rose hip syrup is a wonderful autumn activity, using the ruby red hips that you have collected on an autumnal walk. As the seasons turn your syrup will come into its own to boost vitamin C levels and to help ward off colds.
- Put your collected rose hips in a pan and cover them with water.
- Bring this to the boil then reduce the heat and leave simmering for half an hour, periodically mashing the fruit with a fork or potato masher to release all its goodness, and topping up the water if needed.
- Drain the mixture into a clean pan through a dense cheesecloth, squeezing out all the juice you can. Keep the liquid and discard the rose hips.
- Add around 100 grams (31⁄2 oz) sugar to this liquid then gently heat again to dissolve it.
- If you have citric acid, add 1tsp (5ml) so the syrup will last longer. This is not essential, as the rose hips have a high amount of vitamin C that does a similar job of preservation.
- Pour the syrup into a small bottle or jar and take one or two teaspoons a day throughout the coming months.
Horse Chestnuts (Aesculus Hippocastanum)
Autumn is the time to gather up shiny horse chestnuts from the ground. After an early morning walk in the park, you can come home with bulging pockets full of them. Horse chestnut should not be confused with the delicious edible chestnuts that come from the sweet chestnut tree (Castanea sativa).
Horse chestnuts contain aescin that works on the elasticity of blood vessels, helping to restore strength to them; this has a positive effect on the flow of blood. Indeed, studies have shown that aescin can help treat varicose veins, thread veins, and piles. They are also rich in the natural anti-inflammatory quercetin, which is good for swollen painful joints, and they are used as a homeopathic remedy to treat painful hemorrhoids.
Homemade Horse Chestnuts Tincture
Cut the horse chestnuts coarsely in a coffee grinder or a sharply bladed blender. Transfer the chopped chestnuts into a large glass jar, cover them with alcohol (or Vodka) and close the lid. Let them stay for two weeks in a sunny spot. This tincture can then be applied externally by adding it to a plain base cream, or by adding a few drops to a balm or ointment base.
A word of precaution
This homemade tincture MUST NOT be used internally.
Skin Toning Ointment
If you have made your own horse chestnut tincture, this recipe is ideal for using it in an oil-based ointment. If you’ve not made your own tincture, you can purchase a ready-made one.
- 15g (1⁄2oz) beeswax
- 20ml (1⁄2fl oz) sunflower oil
- 70ml (21⁄2fl oz) calendula oil
- 10ml (1⁄4fl oz) horse chestnut tincture
- 5 drops of lavender essential oil
- Melt the beeswax and sunflower oil in a small pan very slowly on a very low heat.
- Remove from the heat then add the calendula oil, which is excellent for skin care.
- Add the horse chestnut tincture, stirring or whisking well to make sure the alcohol is mixed; then add the lavender essential oil for a nice smell.
- Pour the ointment into a small, clean container.
Hawthorn Berries (Crataegus Laevigata, Crataegus Monogyna)
Hawthorn is one of the most common hedgerow plants found in northern temperate climes, providing an effective thorny barrier for farm animals. Its old name ‘Mayflower’ tells us when the flowers bloom, and in autumn the berries are ripe for picking. If you can’t find any growing near you, purchase dried hawthorn berries from health food shops. Medicinally the berries are good for many things, but if you only remember one, remember its use for the heart and all aspects of the circulatory system.
The berries are now well known for their properties in helping to regulate blood flow and the early stages of some heart problems. They can also ease some conditions that are caused by poor blood flow in the arteries such as Raynaud’s disease, which is where circulation to the extremities is impaired, often leaving the fingertips temporarily blue.
Hawthorn berries are excellent as a tea decoction or you can also make a syrup. For syrup use the same recipe from above, just replace rose hips with hawthorn berries.
Chewy Berry Leather
For something a bit different, why not try making a ‘leather’? This can be done with most berries; other good choices to use for this recipe are rose hips and cranberries. However, use only a little sugar with the latter if you want them to help with cystitis. Eat a square measuring approximately 2cm (3⁄4in) across a day.
- Berries of your choice
- Water to cover the berries
- Sugar to taste
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Put your berries and sugar in the pan with water just covering them.
- Simmer them for 15 minutes then boil for a further five minutes.
- Take off the heat and coarsely blend the berry mixture.
- Add the lemon juice then spread the mixture in a thin layer on a baking tray.
- Cook in the oven on a low heat: 110°C (225°F/Gas Mark 1⁄4) for two hours.
- After cooking, peel from the baking tray then break up and store in jars.
A word of precaution
As with any home remedy, never self-treat if you have a serious condition or are on medication; this is especially the case with Hawthorn as it contains heart-affecting compounds. Also never take it in large amounts as it can cause dizziness and low blood pressure.