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Letter from Publisher

Headshot of publisher Peggy Malecki

Peggy Malecki

October brings us to an intersection of seasons as the colors, sounds, aromas, textures and tastes of the natural world transition from late summer’s hazy sweetness to the crispness of fall. Dominant purples, yellows, blues and pinks of late season gardens are changing to the oranges, reds and browns. Late-blooming native perennials like asters and annuals such as zinnia provide welcome nectar sources for migrating birds and insects to refuel, while falling leaves create shelter for overwintering wildlife as they prep for the coming cold.

The fall fruit harvest is one of many joys to savor this month! While plums, nectarines and grapes are still available in limited quantities at local farmers’ markets, co-ops and grocery stores, it’s time for pomes fruits to take center table! Technically speaking, a “pome” is a type of fruit that is produced by flowering plants in the rose (Rosacea) family. Included in this family are apples, pears, Asian pears and quince.

When I was a kid, we had an apple tree in the backyard of our city lot, as did my grandma that lived on the far Northwest side. My grandparents in Antioch maintained both a summer tart apple tree and a magnificent, tall, pear tree on their property. So I was delighted that the former owners of my current home had planted a dwarf pear tree in the yard. I’ve watched it grow over the years, enjoyed the fragrant spring blossoms, carefully protected flowering branches with floating row cover in late freezes, noted a few small fruits and observed as squirrels enjoyed all but a couple pears I managed to rescue. But this year, when the little tree offered a bountiful harvest of yellow-green pears, I picked most of the pears with gratitude, and set them aside to ripen while leaving some fruits in place for squirrels and the tree to enjoy. I’m already contemplating recipes...

Pears are delicious options for cooking, canning, dehydrating and baking! On their own, pears can often have a subtle, understated taste, so they benefit from other ingredients that coax out flavors. My favorite way to add some zest to a pear recipe is with a little finely ground black pepper. Pears in sweet recipes like cakes and tarts go well with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger and nutmeg (think apple pie spices), while more savory preparations like salads can pair the fruit with herbs, including small amounts of rosemary, tarragon and thyme. Other pear desserts may include tree nuts, a fruity local honey, real vanilla and maple syrup.

This month in Natural Awakenings Chicago (which begins our 12th year of publishing), we’re easing into the autumn season by exploring ways to live more simply and reduce our environmental footprint. We encourage you to share our inspiring Healthy Kids department articles “Talking to Kids About Climate Change” and also “Kids Learn About Conservation at Field Museum.” If you’re looking for ways to enjoy October outdoors, Sheryl DeVore tells us about migrating ducks to see this month on Midwest waterways. And of course, recipes take center stage as we bring you tasty options for cooking with fall fruits and pumpkins!

As always, I strongly encourage you to step outside every day this month for exercise, relaxation and to reconnect with the natural world. Watch the trees in your yard or local park change their colors, observe the sunset colors and changing light as the days progress, sense the autumn breezes, watch for migrating birds high overhead, listen to the rustle of leaves and fall native grasses, and  feel the chilly or warm rain on your face. Savor and reflect on the season every day.                                                                                         

Wishing you a joyful autumn season and a happy and safe Halloween!