Today I’m sharing three super-healthy recipes to celebrate the harvest season. All are made with my mother’s secret ingredient — lemon juice. You won’t taste it but she always claimed it’s critical to “balance the flavors.”

Here’s a recipe for fruit pie, adapted from “Joy of Cooking.” These quantities are pretty arbitrary. You can mix and match the fruits, depending on what you have fresh or frozen.

There is no sugar in this recipe. You can sneak in a little maple syrup if you want.

I call it “Rose’s Pie.” You’re on your own for the pie crust.

* 1 pint of blueberries.

* 1 quart of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, rhubarb, or all of these, just so they add up to a quart or so. You could use even more blueberries with a little carpet of apple or peach slices on the bottom.

* 1 cup (or more) of oat-floured date pieces. You can get these at the Better Living Center in Farmington, Harvest Time in Augusta or Uncle Dean’s Good Groceries in Waterville.

Mix all the ingredients with 21/2 tablespoons of tapioca grits (for thickening) and juice of 1/2 lemon (or more if you like). Let sit a few minutes. (If you don’t have tapioca, you’ll just have a runnier pie. You could use a little flour or arrowroot, too.)

Plunk it all into the pie crust and bake 10 minutes at 450 degrees, then reduce the heat to 350 and bake about 1 hour. You will know it’s done when it starts dripping on the oven floor. (Use a baking sheet under the pie, unless you really like cleaning the oven.)

Slather on the (sugar-free) ice cream, frozen yogurt or other topping, or enjoy it plain.

If you don’t want pie of any description, you can make fruit compote. Omit the tapioca and add a little water (about 1/2 cup) so it won’t burn. Cook briefly until, well, cooked. This is great on cereal or as a topping on some more wicked dessert.

The second recipe is for apple, raisin and cranberry compote that I adapted from somewhere and named “Monkeys on the Rocks” in honor of the novelist Patrick O’Brian. A couple of his novels have scenes set on the Rock of Gibraltar, which apes inhabit, or at least they did in the 19th century. I know that apes are not monkeys, but “monkeys” makes a more mellifluous title, I think.

* 1 3-lb. bag apples: Empire, Royal Gala, Fuji, MacIntosh or whatever. Quarter, core and slice thickly. Don’t bother to peel unless you just have to use the fancy peeler you brought home from the yard sale.

* 2 cinnamon sticks.

* About 11/2 inches of fresh ginger sliced into little rounds; don’t bother to peel it, either.

* 3/4 to 1 cup raisins.

* 3/4 to 1 cup dried cranberries. (You can get these sweetened with pineapple juice, or unsweetened.)

* Juice of 1/2 lemon

Combine all ingredients in a big pot and add about 1/2 cup water. Cook until apples are soft. Remove the cinnamon sticks; these can be dried and re-used several times. Hunt out all the little ginger slices and discard. Or leave in for secret surprises. If you hate ginger, don’t even put it in.

“Monkeys on the Rocks” is great on oatmeal and cereal or anything else that needs a topping, or for dessert on its own. You could also reverse-engineer this recipe into a pie.

The third recipe is for pesto without any salt, oil or cheese. It might be the best thing you ever ate. It’s adapted from “Dining in the Raw: Cooking with ‘The Buff'” by Rita Romano. I call it “Heavenly Pesto.”

* 2 cups basil, parsley, or spinach leaves packed tightly (Wash and remove stems. I used half basil and half parsley last time.)

* 1 cup pine (pignolia) nuts and/or walnuts (I used half of each.)

* 3 cloves garlic, chopped

* Juice of 1 lemon

* 1/4 to 1/2 cup Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (You can find this at the stores I mentioned or use soy sauce if you don’t mind the salt.)

* 1 cup water

Cook the garlic a couple minutes in a little water if, like me, you can’t stand raw garlic. Don’t burn it. Put everything into a blender and blend with many many little pulses, mashing down the stuff in between pulses. Patience! Don’t blend your spoon! The mess eventually will turn into a beautiful green sauce, to die for on pasta or as a dip.

Enjoy the harvest!

Theodora J. Kalikow is president of the University of Maine at Farmington. She can be reached at [email protected]

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