Winter is not a particularly abundant season for fresh produce. Sure, you can buy oranges and pineapples all year if you don’t mind spending a fortune, getting old product and eating something that’s been shipped thousands of miles and picked before ripening.
You all know I’m a big fan of eating seasonally and I also try to eat locally whenever I can. For those of you who live in tropical and Deep South areas, winter can sometimes be more generous. For the rest of us vegetarians, focusing on cold-weather crops or crops that store well for a season are the way to go.
Molly Watson, About.com’s guide to local foods, has a great article on what’s best to buy during the winter.
It’s a great primer on the freshest and cheapest produce to buy during the colder months. Here, I want to give you five of the healthiest (most nutritious) of the cold-weather produce that’s in stores right now.
Kale is one of my all-time favorite foods at any time of year. It’s also best grown in cooler temperatures, as a little cold weather actually makes it less bitter and more vigorous during growing. Kale is not only delicious, it’s loaded with Vitamin C and iron, two things most vegetarians find hard to get in their diets in winter.
Beets are delicious roasted, pickled or in salads and they’re amazingly good for you. They’re one of the few purple foods (please see my post on eating the rainbow), which are loaded with antioxidants not found in many other foods, including heart-healthy resveratrol.
Sweet potatoes are a storage crop grown primarily in summer and fall and many varieties hold their nutritional content well. They’re loaded with far more protein and far less starch than white potatoes and are also a great source of beta-carotene.
Get out of your romaine rut and check out this prized, delicate chicory for salads and sauteing. It has far more nutritional value than iceberg lettuce and it’s deliciously different.
While citrus such as Clementines and grapefruit are available locally in Florida, Texas and California, the foods above are grown locally throughout the fall and winter in many areas. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat oranges in New York, just that you can increase your consumption (and support) of local foods by trying these healthy and yummy foods this winter.
Check out Molly’s links for regional areas and their winter crops so you know what is grown when in your neck of the woods!