Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core . . .
The first line of Keats’ lovely ode To Autumn always reminds me of a really funny scene in the movie Bridget Jones’ Diary. Anybody else?
In the Northern Hemisphere, we are enjoying Autumn, without a doubt my favorite season. The sun has become less intense, allowing for cooler temperatures, making it a perfect time for hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities amongst luscious scents and sounds of underfoot crackling. The kids are back in school, and thoughts have turned toward planning for the holidays, prompting memories of years past. And the leaves, oh the leaves!
According to Wikipedia, prior to the 16th century, this season was called Harvest. But as more and more people moved away from the countryside and into towns, the term gradually lost its reference to the time of year and came to refer only to the actual activity of reaping. Afterwards, the season became known as Fall, referring to the fall of the leaves, or Autumn, which may have derived from a Latin word meaning increase.
An article from the US Forest Service explains the breathtaking beauty exhibited by the leaves of many trees this time of year. Deciduous tree leaves possess various pigments, including chlorophyll. During warmer months, chlorophyll is dominant, causing green hues. But as the hours of daylight grow shorter in the Fall, other pigments become more obvious, resulting in amazing palates of yellow, gold, orange, and many shades of red. During this glorious time, a wall of tissue is formed beneath each leaf, stopping the flow of fluids, causing the leaves to eventually drop. Here in Northern Arizona, those gorgeous leaves are seen on the ground much too early each year, an unhappy consequence of frequent high winds.
I was surprised to find that this is a good time to plant new trees. From a piece written for the Arbor Day Foundation, Planting in the fall gives trees an extra growing season before the stress of summer. The combination of cooler temperatures and fall rain allows trees to establish their roots, making it easier on them to adjust to extreme heat or drought in the summer. Further, the article says, there is no need to fear the effects of winter on the newly planted trees, because they, like bears and bats, sleep during the cold months.
Nature’s timing also indicates the plant foods we should be eating now. Those that are best to consume during Autumn are crops that have been harvested recently and locally. This is due to newly-introduced regional microbes that help our gut’s existing microbiome (and therefore, our immunity) transition to the changing climate. According to Dr. Elson Haas of the Preventive Medical Center in San Rafael, California, Nature gives us what we need, when we need it. This website offers information on what’s being harvested this season.
Call it Harvest, Fall, or Autumn, I hope you and your family are enjoying the lavish delights of this time of year. May the season’s sights, scents, sounds, and tastes bestow upon you beautiful new experiences and bring to mind joyful memories.
Now, where is that Bridget Jones dvd?
The content of this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with a qualified health care professional before acting on any information presented herein. Any statements about the possible health benefits of any subject discussed have not been evaluated by medical professionals or the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness.