Donna Peters column: Eat seasonal produce for a more healthy lifestyle

Creamed artichoke, chard and crisp garlic is a healthy favourite.
Creamed artichoke, chard and crisp garlic is a healthy favourite.

Why is it important to eat seasonally? Quite simply, when you eat locally and seasonally you know you are eating the freshest, most nutrient dense, abundantly available produce.

It is better for everyone – you get the tastiest veg, the local farmer benefits and food miles (the distance our food has to travel from the farm to your fork) decreases so you get to save the environment and it’s usually cheaper too!

Another benefit is to reconnect with nature’s seasonal cycle. If you have children, this is especially important as it teaches that food does grow at specific times, a hard concept to grasp when imports from all around the globe ensure that supermarket shelves look the same practically every week of the year.

I always urge my clients to eat seasonally and I want to help make 2018 the year that you can embrace this concept too.

Farmers’ markets and farm shops are a great place to find local seasonal veg, but if you struggle to find one or are short of time, why not let someone else do the hard work and get the goodies delivered to your door?

If you’ve never considered getting an organic veg box, it can work really well. It’ll teach you super fast what is in season when, you’ll get some of the best produce available in your area and delivered to you, and it will wake you up to the magic of cooking.

Inviting a veg box into your life forces you to try something new, and this can be very invigorating – for the whole family. Of course, you can pick and choose the types of ingredients you want and avoid having things added that you hate, but I urge you to have a go and see what happens.

In season at the moment are: apples, beetroot, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chicory, horseradish, Jerusalem artichoke, kale, leeks, onions, parsnips, pears, shallots and swede.

Jerusalem artichoke is one of my favourite winter vegetables. They are part of the sunflower family, and it’s easy to see how a relation of a girasole (Italian for sunflower) could end up being labelled ‘Jerusalem’. Peeling can be a pain, so just scrub them clean, (but you do have to put them into lemon water the minute the flesh is exposed or they discolour).

l Nutrition information: thiamin, niacin, vitamin C, iron, potassium, phosphorus and copper. They also contain inulin (form of carbohydrate) which acts as a prebiotic, feeding the beneficial probiotic organisms in the body.

Recipe – Creamed Jerusalem artichoke, chard and crisp garlic by Nigel Slater, serves two to three people.

Ingredients:

800g Jerusalem artichokes

½ lemon

75g butter

20g parmesan, grated

2 large garlic cloves

100g chard, young leaves

40g butter

10g Parmesan, in one piece

Method: 1. Peel the artichokes, then boil them in salted water, acidulated with the lemon juice, or cook them in a vegetable steamer (about 15 minutes, until tender).

2. Peel garlic and thinly slice. Trim the chard, cutting off and discarding any browning edges on the stems.

3. Melt 40g of butter, then add the sliced garlic and leave to cook until golden and crisp. Move it around and take care that it becomes crisp, but doesn’t burn. Remove from the pan and place on a piece of kitchen paper.

4. Drain the artichokes and mash to a smooth purée, adding the 75g of butter. Season with salt, black pepper and some of the grated Parmesan.

5. Return the pan to the heat and add the chard leaves, tossing them in the garlicky butter that remains in the pan for a couple of minutes until they start to wilt. Divide the creamed artichoke between two hot plates, then place the chard and garlic on top. Add a few shavings of Parmesan, cut from the block with a vegetable peeler, and the reserved fried garlic at the last moment.