On a recent trip to France (Cap Ferret) with my daughter Sofia, I was inspired to write a blog about my food experiences here. It wasn’t so much the cheese, wine and bread that moved me but more the deep awareness and care for food, I encountered here. There seemed to be a deep desire to eat seasonally and locally, with great care taken by stall holders to pick just the right tomato to be eaten for dinner that night. There was a buzz around the food with very little pre packaged food and mostly fresh produce.
Eating seasonally is so important. First of all its better for the planet, but it’s actually also better for your body. Our digestive fire is weakest in summer (according to Ayurvedic principles). So in summer its best to eat fruit and vegetables which are of course in abundance. It’s a win, win situation. As the seasons change so does the food, and our bodies. There is a reason watermelons and other cooling fruit make their appearance in the height of summer, and don’t grace our christmas table.
It is also means you don’t eat broccoli and kale all year round, because no single food group can supply all the nutrients we need. Which brings me to the second cornerstone of health, food diversity. Our Ancestors’ pre agricultural food habits were very much based on hunting and gathering, which meant not only did they eat seasonally but they also ate on average 145 different types of food a year. The average person now will consume about 20 different foods, if they are lucky.
So how do you incorporate some of this wisdom into todays agricultural/supermarket monoculture onslaught? There are several strategies; The obvious is to go shopping at your local market, buying whats available at that time of year. Another thing you can do is to start foraging for simple things like nettle, dandelions, elderberries and blackberries, to suggest just a few. These wild plants pack a nutritional punch far beyond anything you can buy at the supermarket. And lastly you can make use of herbs all year round. Herbs have a very high nutrient density and are real powerhouses. Having herbs everyday in some form will vastly improve your health. Either as a tea, tonic, in salads, dressings, essential oils or as pesto.
I kept thinking about what inspired me here in France, and one of the things I was really drawn to was the feel and smell of nature around me. The beautiful smells of the pine forests, the feel of the soft needles underneath my toes and the creamy taste of pine kernels. If I had to make a dish right now, right here, what would it be? It had to be pesto drizzled over local sweet tomatoes served with some crusty bread and a chilled glass of wine.
Pesto is one of those amazing staples which are so very versatile. Eat it plain on toast, add it to your scrambled eggs, drizzle it over a tomato salad or add it to pasta for a very simple meal. I’ve chosen a combination of Basil and Rosemary. Basil fortifies the digestive and nervous system and can be a good remedy for headaches and insomnia. Rosemary has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and adds a beautiful flavour to the pesto. I used pine nuts because I love their rich, creamy taste and they are also a very good source of protein. You could experiment and replace them with any other kind of nut.
Divine Basil and Rosemary Pesto
- 1 cup tightly packed basil leaves
- 1/2 cup rosemary leaves (without the stem)
- 3/4 cup pine nuts
- enough extra virgin olive oil to bring it to a smooth consistency about 1/2 cup
- 1 clove of garlic
salt to taste (a generous pinch)
- Put all the ingredients in a food processor (except the oil and salt) and mix until it resembles a coarse ground mixture
- With the motor running add olive oil slowly until the desired consistency is reached
- Taste and season with salt
This should keep in the fridge for at least one week and it can also be frozen. As the seasons change so will your pesto, so for example in spring try adding steamed nettle leaves or fresh dandelion leaves.
I will leave you with a quote from my favourite herbalist.
“One must tread delicately on those lands, its palace is built on shifting sands; And so fragile, one cruel look or word – Would utterly smash that porcelain world”
Juliette de Bairacli Levy
With Love x