As weather turns from warm to cold and the days grow shorter, I've found a lot of people start thinking about food. And with good reason. Autumn is a time of year traditionally associated with the harvest, which means a lot of delicious foods are coming into season and are ready to be collected for human consumption. Plants begin preparing for the coming winter as much as people do, moving energy out of their leafy parts, and into their roots. Trees and bushes drop leaves, grasses turn from green to brown,
and the starchy and sugary roots of plants start to mature. It's a great time to harvest foods like carrots, potatoes, onions and yams.
Above ground, things aren't entirely quiet. Autumn is also a little dryer than summer season it follows, so the water heavy fruits and vegetables that have been growing are ready for taking. Fruits like apples (seen above) and pears are ripe for picking, and many types of seeds and nuts, like sunflower seeds, walnuts, and acorns (if you like stocking up to feed squirrels with, like I do) can also be collected. Additionally, many of the above ground gourds, squashes, and grains are coming into season. Pumpkins, butternut squash, and corn are favorites of mine. Many perrenial flowers (seen below) are also coming into bloom. I'm a big fan of orange Chrysanthemum.
The one thing that all of these foods have in common is their high nutritional value. As they concentrate the sugars and starches to get them through the coming winter, we start to eat them more and more to, effectively, do the same thing. Everyone has heard of "putting on winter weight" before, and our bodies are trying get ready for the colder, dryer months just as much as the plants are. This isn't a coincidence, and shows one of the many ways in which human beings are intimately connected to the natural world around them. Our moods and habits change with the seasons just like many other animals and plants do. Birds migrate across the globe to warmer locations, bears start packing on the pounds in preparation for hibernation, and domestic dogs and cats start to grow thicker winter coats. So this fall season, take part in the harvest, eat a ton of food, travel safely wherever you may be going, make sure you always have something warm to wear, and most of all, take note of the wonderful natural changes taking place around you. You won't be sorry!
(All photos courtesy of and © C. Barrios, 2010)