Seasonal Foods: Why you should celebrate Midsummer

  • The important nutritional lesson of midsummer’s day
  •  If you want the most nutritional punch from your food, do this
  •  How this natural anti-depressant got its name

Happy Midsummer’s Day!

Although that word ‘midsummer’ is a bit confusing, isn’t it?

The school holidays haven’t even started… and yet we’re already midsummer?!

Meteorologically speaking, we’re only a month into summer, so there are still two thirds of it left.

And astronomically speaking, summer started on the June Solstice, which was on Tuesday, earlier this week – so we’re only a few days into that, too.

So why midsummer?

Well, the reason we celebrate ‘midsummer’ between June 19 and June 24th is because since ancient times, pagans have partied in the week surrounding the summer solstice.

Bonfires were lit to ward off evil spirits and there was dancing and feasting as the earth began to turn away from the sun.

From the solstice day onwards, the days begin a slow but inevitable process of getting shorter.

However, a likely reason for the name ‘midsummer’ was that in olden times, today was midpoint of the growing season between planting and harvest.

This is why in some countries it’s known as one of four ‘Quarter Days’.

To add to the confusion, the Christians decided that they would take that pagan festival and use it for their own celebrations, which is why June 24th is St John the Baptist day, or just St John’s Day.

Anyway, whatever the reason for it, I think it’s a great day to celebrate, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it’s good to recognise the seasons… the tilt of the earth, the changes in the weather, and all that wonderful sunlight we get in these long days.

There’s a lot of troubling stuff happening in the world, from the rise in living costs to war in Europe, and climate change – but sometimes it’s important to look at the good things we have in the here and now.

So this day is an excuse to celebrate being alive on this precious jewel of a planet, with all its strange wonders and simple pleasures.

Secondly, midsummer is a chance to think about all the wonderful bounties that nature offers us at various times of year.

In our modern culture of permanent electricity and lights, 24/7 online ordering and mass-produced goods shipped around the world, we have lost a lot of our connection to the ebb and flow of nature.

We assume that everything is, and should be, available all the time, all year round, whenever we want it.

But there is such pleasure in living in tune with the seasons.

And significant ecological and health benefits, too.

If you want the most nutritional punch from your food, then you should do this

I don’t mean to sound like a hippy about the idea of being in harmony with the seasons – for me it’s not simply a fancy ‘idea’, it’s a practical way to live a good life, getting the most of food and drink without harming the environment unnecessarily.

Because when you eat with the seasons, you get the maximum flavour, the most nutrition and the lowest carbon footprint from everything you eat.

And June into July are such wonderful months in this country for food.  For example, this month in the UK, some of the best seasonal vegetables are:

  • Broad beans
  • Baby carrots
  • Spring cabbage
  • Globe artichokes
  • New potatoes
  • Courgettes and summer squash
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Rocket
  • Spring onions
  • Radish
  • Chard

And the best fruits include:

  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Currants
  • Gooseberries
  • Cherries

It’s often said that if you want to give yourself the best nutritional boost every day, you should eat ‘the colours of the rainbow’ and the food around this time of year can certainly provide that.

How this natural anti-depressant got its name

As I already mentioned in this letter, today is also known as St John’s Day in the Christian calendar.

Which is how a popular herbal remedy got its name…

Because it was on this day that a European shrub called ‘hypericum perforatum’, would usually flower.

It therefore became known as St. John’s wort.

Its flowers and leaves have a famously powerful medicinal effect on people with depression and menopausal symptoms.

Some studies have shown that St John’s Wort supplements can be as effective as many prescription antidepressants, although the jury is still out on whether it works for people with severe depression.

There is also evidence that it can reduce the intensity of somatic symptom disorder, which is a form of anxiety about physical symptoms like pain or shortness of breath.

And other studies show that it can reduce hot flushes in menopausal women.

The snag is that St. John’s wort interacts badly with some medications, so you need to consult a medical professional before you take it.

In a few cases it can cause agitation, anxiety, dizziness, diarrhoea, constipation and stomach pain.

However, if you are physically ok to try it, and you do suffer anxiety issues, it could be one to try.

Another option would be to try a CBD product – you can see a full range of our recommendations here: CBD for anxiety.

Anyway, I’ll leave you to enjoy the rest of Midsummer’s Day – I’ll be back with more over the weekend.