Above all seasons, fall is the season of colors. Watching the leaves on the trees turn from green to gorgeous colors of red, orange, yellow and sometimes purple is breathtaking, especially in our beloved West Virginia mountains.
I often think of the festive fall colors of food at this time of year as special dishes to create for giving thanks at our holiday celebrations. I find it fascinating that there is a greater plan for the colors that we admire on the trees and place on our tables.
We grow and harvest during our warm months and begin to store during our cold months. It is a last burst of brightness to hold onto as we move into the dark, cold months ahead.
In an article on the U.S. Forest Service website, called “Science of Fall Colors,” the color of the leaf pigment is explained. Three types of pigments are involved in these autumn colors.
Have you ever made the connection with the colors present in popular fall foods and those colors of the leaves on the trees?
Carotenoid produces yellow, orange and brown colors in such foods as carrots, butternut squash, pumpkin and rutabaga.
Anthocyanin gives color to cranberries, red apples, concord grapes, blueberries and pomegranates. They are water soluble and appear in the watery liquid of leaf cells.
Chlorophyll gives leaves a basic green color. It is necessary for photosynthesis, the chemical reaction that enables plants to use sunlight to manufacture sugars for food. Chlorophyll is present in kale, spinach and collard greens.
Both chlorophyll and carotenoids are present in the chloroplasts of leaf cells throughout the growing season. Most anthocyanins are produced in the autumn in response to bright light and excess plant sugars within the leaf cells.
During the growing season, chlorophyll is continually being produced and broken down and leaves appear green. As night lengthens in autumn, chlorophyll production slows down and then stops, and eventually all the chlorophyll is destroyed.
The carotenoids and anthocyanins in a leaf are then unmasked and show their colors.
According to a report in “Live Science” on the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine website, “Carotenoids and anthocyanins are phytonutrients (plant chemicals) found in the cells of the bright colors of plants. They act as antioxidants in the human body. They have strong cancer-fighting properties. Some carotenoids are converted by the body to vitamin A. They also have anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits. They are sometimes associated with cardiovascular disease prevention.”
As we approach the season when colds and viruses are most prevalent, we have the abundance of these fresh whole foods to help boost our immune system.
When the brilliance of this fall’s colors are gone from the trees, choose the seasonal plants that are readily available and reap the benefits of good health and wonderful flavors.
Today’s recipes have an abundance of color provided by the antioxidants carotene and anthocyanins. They are healthy, quick meals with festive fall colors. Add them to your Thanksgiving table or use them as stand-alone meals when you want a boost of energy.
The Pumpkin Pasta Sauce can be served cold, as prepared in the photo, or warm by sauteeing the spiralized noodles and heating the pumpkin sauce.
I have highlighted my past Thanksgiving articles on my blog. Visit eatsofeden.com/blog to choose from a number of recipes, including a full plant-based Thanksgiving menu.