​Nutrition December seasonal produce

Tuesday 08 May 2018

It is now time to look at the fruits and vegetables that are in season in December. The obvious choices for seasonal fruits and vegetables was to look at cranberries and Brussels sprouts (the food that people either love or hate - a bit like marmite!!!)   others are :

Apples, pears, Jerusalem artichokes, cabbages, celeriac, parsnips, pumpkin, wild mushrooms, swede and turnips

I have already looked at the benefits of berry fruits and leafy green vegetables  earlier this year So I have decided to focus on Jerusalem artichokes and wild mushrooms.

We have touched on mushrooms last year when we looked at ways to boost the immune system but I feel that we can look at them in more detail and they are really worth a second visit.

Jerusalem Artichokes
Also known as the Earth Apple. They have a similar texture to potatoes with an earthy nutty flavour.They resemble root ginger to look at, but a more muddy brown colour. Not to be confused with globe artichokes.

Health Benefits

  • They provide a rich source on minerals particularly iron, potassium and magnesium. They contain 3 times more iron per serving than broccoli which is quite impressive. Iron is of course needed to help combat anaemia and tiredness, very often people receiving treatment for cancer can become anaemic so artichokes may help.
    Potassium is a mineral that helps to keep our bodies in an alkaline condition and it is the main mineral found inside the human cell. When we have good levels of potassium the cell can work effectively at producing energy and giving us vitality.
    Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals found in the body. It too is essential for the cell to produce energy and magnesium also helps us to feel calm and relaxed.


  • Jerusalem artichokes are a very good source of Inulin.  (not to be confused with Insulin which is a hormone produced by the pancreas to control blood sugar levels). Inulin is a type of carbohydrate that is not utilised by the body in the same way as other carbohydrate foods. Instead it is known as a ‘prebiotic’ food along with onions, leeks, asparagus, chicory and raw green bananas These prebiotic foods help to maintain a healthy balance of bowel bacteria. As you know we have about 3lb of bacteria in our gut and it is important to keep the many strains balanced and healthy. Antibiotics and treatment for cancer can have a huge negative impact on the bowel bacterial population so introducing inulin into the diet may help redress the side effects of the treatment by promoting the growth of the beneficial bacteria.  Namely bifidobacterium which is one of the main genera.


  • Jerusalem Artichokes may also have some immune enhancing activity as inulin also has the ability to promote the part of our immune system called ‘Complement’. Complement is responsible for increasing our defence mechanisms by neutralizing viruses, destroying bacteria and increasing the movement of our white blood cells to areas of infection.


  • Inulin also helps to keep our blood sugar stable which is very useful for diabetics and of course we understand that elevated blood sugar levels are not desirable.
  • Jerusalem artichokes are a very good source of dietary fibre to help prevent constipation.

Preparation and use of jerusalem artichokes

  • They need to be scrubbed well to remove any dirt before use.
  • Can be used in a very similar way to potatoes i.e. steamed, boiled, mashed. Roasted etc.
  • Unlike potatoes they can be eaten raw, grated into salads or used in a juice.

A delicious and very nutritious juice recipe.
Simply whiz together 1 clove of garlic, 1/4” piece of root ginger peeled, handful of parsley, 3 carrots, 1 apple and 4oz of Jerusalem artichokes.

And another
Whiz together  ½” piece of root ginger, 1 apple, 3 kale leaves, 3 romaine lettuce leaves, ½ cucumber and 4oz artichokes.

Artichoke soup
Artichokes  make a wonderful creamy soup.
Cook 2 lbs (1 kg) of artichokes in water for 30-40 min till tender. Drain and discard the liquid. Then when they are cool peel and mash them then put them in a large pan and enough vegetables stock to cover, add 6 oz of onion finely chopped, season,  simmer for about 15 min, Serve with chopped dill or basil.

Wild mushrooms

I am not actually recommending that you go foraging for mushrooms but to include mushrooms generally to the diet. Shiitake mushrooms is a symbol of longevity in Asia because of the health promoting properties and has been used medicinally by the Chinese for more than 6,000 years.  

Shiitaki mushrooms contain a compound called Lentinan which has the ability to power up the immune system, strengthening its ability to fight infection.

Maitaki also have immune enhancing and possibly cancer fighting properties. As early as the 1970’s it was discovered that they had anti- tumour activities. This is due to their Beta-glucan content of the mushrooms which activates the white blood cells which in turn fight infection.

They also stimulate the production of white blood cells within the bone marrow. Reduced bone marrow production can be a side effect of treatment.

According to research, they have been identified as having 4 primary mechanisms by which they fight cancer.

1. They protect cells from becoming cancerous,

2. They enhance the immune systems ability to seek out and fight cancer cells.

3. They help cancer cells regain control of cell division and programmed cell death (apoptosis).

4. They help inhibit the spreading (metastasis) of cancer.

Finely if that is not enough they help reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy such as nausea, fatigue and immune suppression and have been identified as enhancing the effectiveness of these treatments.

It would appear that they would be a very good food to use regularly in a balanced healthy diet.

Preparation and uses

Dried mushrooms are one of the staple foods that I keep in my store cupboard because once they are refreshed with water they make great additions to soups. Omelettes, sauces and casseroles. They do not lose their nutritional value by being dried.

Shiitake mushrooms are traditionally added to Miso soup.

Fresh mushrooms make an excellent side dish sautéed with garlic in a little olive oil. Or simply have them on toast as a light meal.

Super healthy simple mushroom soup. Will freeze well.(From: Eating to Boost The Immune System, by Kirsten Hartvig).

100g of dried shiitake mushrooms
2 tbsp of olive oil
2 spring onions finely chopped
1 clove garlic finely chopped
1 carrot finely chopped
2.5cm piece of fresh root ginger finely chopped
1 tbsp of soya sauce
1 tsp of agave syrup
1.5 litres of water seasoning.

1. Soak the mushrooms in the water for 20 min. In a large pan heat the oil and saute the onions, ginger, garlic and carrot for a couple of minutes.
2. Add the mushrooms and soaking water plus soya sauce, cover and simmer gently for 30min. Season and serve.

Nutrition berries July 2013 link  to blog

Nutrition your leafy greens sept 2013 link to blog

Nutrition ways to boost the immune system july 2012 ( mushrooms) link to blog

Blog originally written by Caroline December 2013

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