Autumn is a spectacular time of year as leaves and flowered mums dot the landscape with shades of red, yellow, and orange. Just as the earth erupts with Fall colors, fruits and veggies also shine with brilliant colors. Truly, the Fall Harvest is a perfect time to increase dietary intake of fruits and veggies and reap the health benefits of produce loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals. In fact, the USDA’s recommendation is to fill half of our plate with fruits and vegetables for every meal and each snack. Farmer’s markets are a great place to gather such produce as their shelves are bursting with colorful seasonal produce like apples, pears, cranberries, pumpkins, and butternut squash.
But Autumn is not just a great season for fruits and vegetables, it’s also a great season for herbs. In fact, the body gains additional health benefits when combining flavor enhancing fresh herbs with fruits and veggies. Scientific research proves that herbs contain an impressive list of vitamins, phytonutrients, antioxidants, and minerals known to have disease preventing and health promoting properties.
Food in the Scriptures
Did you know that Autumn fruits and veggies pair well with the Biblical herbs mint and dill? Here’s an interesting fact: the Pharisees offered mint for tithing in accordance with Mosaic law (Matthew 23:23 NKJV). Used for thousands of years to sooth indigestion, modern research proves that mint’s numerous health benefits are due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This seasoning contains vitamins A and C and the minerals calcium, zinc, and copper. And all flavors of mint include the aromatic decongestant menthol which loosens phlegm and mucus (Hosseinzadeh, 2015). This is why mint continues to be used medicinally. Its calming effects can be used as a natural aid for common concerns like flatulence, diarrhea, menstrual cramps, nausea, and headaches.
Tender mint leaves are best used fresh as they add a sweet flavor with a cool aftertaste.
Peppermint in particular, boasts an intense peppery tang while spearmint offers a milder sweet flavor. By incorporating peppermint or spearmint into your cooking you can augment a variety of autumn fruits such as tomatoes, limes, cranberries, figs, and pomegranates with a refreshing zesty flavor. For example, create a mint limeade or lemonade for a thirst-quenching drink. Roasted veggies such as cauliflower, eggplant, potatoes, and squash are also enhanced by fresh mint.
The Benefits of Dill
Dill is another herbal plant used in Biblical times for tithing, food preparation, and medicine (Matthew 23:23). The ancient people applied dill’s essential oil eugenol as a local anesthetic and antiseptic. Research proves that dill essential oil is a natural antimicrobial and antioxidant (Singh, 2005).
Dill weed is a good source of calcium, manganese, and iron, and as an antioxidant food, its flavonoids such as quercetin provide anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. Quercetin plays an important part in fighting free radical damage, the effects of aging, and inflammation (Zhang, 2017). Dill contains vitamins A and C, folate, iron, and amino acids. By Including dill in one’s diet these important fatty acids improve wellbeing (Nguyen, 2015).
Herbs for your Health
Tomatoes, figs, cranberries, and apples combine scrumptiously with dill’s slightly sweet taste and hints of caraway, lemon, anise, and parsley. Dill heightens the flavors of Fall veggies such as cauliflower, beets, and squash. Try a butternut squash and dill soup for a hearty and warming autumn lunch.
These complimentary herbs enhance fruit’s sweet taste and the bold flavors of veggies. By incorporating dill into your cooking preparation, favorite dishes become an extraordinary food experience rich in vitamins and nutrients, as well as, color and flavor. Discover the combinations that please personal palates by sprinkling with herbs from the cupboard or windowsill herb garden onto various fruits and vegetable dishes.
Nature’s garden feeds, heals, and brings joy. In the words of the 9th century Emperor Charlemagne, “Herbs are the friend of the physician and the pride of cooks.”
Roasted Apples and Butternut Squash with Dill Recipe
This recipe combining two autumn favorites is a sweet and savory side dish for any meal.
Serves 6- 8
1 butternut squash
1 large sweet onion (I use Vidalia)
2 apples (good choices are Braeburn, Cortland, Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith)
2 tablespoons fresh dill
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450°F.
Chop the butternut squash, apples, and sweet onion into bite sized pieces. Mince the fresh dill. Mix the squash, sweet onion, and apples into a large bowl and add the olive oil, salt and fresh ground pepper. Place the chopped vegetables in a covered baking dish and roast for approximately 30 minutes. Remove the cover and continue roasting for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and top with the fresh dill. Serve immediately and enjoy!
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.
Hosseinzadeh, S., Jafarikukhdan, A., Hosseini, A. and Armand, R. (2015) The Application of Medicinal Plants in Traditional and Modern Medicine: A Review of Thymus vulgaris. International Journal of Clinical Medicine, 6, 635-642. doi: 10.4236/ijcm.2015.69084.
Singh, G., Maurya, S., de Lampasona P., & Catalan, C., Chemical constituents, antimicrobial investigations, and antioxidative potentials of Anethum graveolens L. essential oil and acetone extract: Part 52. Journal of Food Science, 2005. 70, M208-M215.
Zhang, M, et al. “Antioxidant properties of quercetin.” Advances in experimental medicine and biology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21445799. Accessed 15 Sept. 2017.
National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Database. Quercetin, CID=5280343, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Quercetin (accessed on Sept. 3, 2019)
Nguyen, T., Aparicio, M., & Saleh, M. A. (2015). Accurate Mass GC/LC-Quadrupole Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry Analysis of Fatty Acids and Triacylglycerols of Spicy Fruits from the Apiaceae Family. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 20(12), 21421-32. doi:10.3390/molecules201219779