Winter has a lot going for it: trips to the snow, cozy blankets, and rich hot chocolate. Fresh produce, however, isn’t usually first on this list. Here in Northern California, we are lucky enough to have a variety of produce available year-round; check out all of the options with these seasonality charts here.
Eating locally through the winter can be challenging. The good news is that every meal doesn’t have to revolve around potatoes and onions, regardless of where you spend your winter. With a bit of advanced planning and creativity, it’s possible to eat fresh fruits and vegetables that contain plenty of nutrients and flavor. Aiming for five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day can also prevent illness and keep you happy and healthy all winter long.
Here are some of the unexpected vitamin-rich cold-weather foods you should stock up on right now:
Citrus fruits are loaded with vitamin C and flavonoids, which may reduce the risk of cancer. Citrus consumption has also been linked to lower risk of a laundry list of ailments including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, cholera, gingivitis, cataracts, and Crohn’s disease. Stock up on Meyer lemons, oranges, grapefruit, kumquats, blood oranges, and mandarin oranges to get your citrus fix this season. Citrus fruits are grown in warm climates and are ripe for picking between late October and March. These fruits can be stored in the refrigerator for a few weeks, or at room temperature for up to four days.
How to eat it: Enjoy citrus fruits as a side of breakfast or tossed into a salad for lunch or dinner.
Sweet, earthy and deep red, beets are pretty unique in the vegetable aisle. Beets contain antioxidants called betalains, which can help fight cancer and other degenerative diseases. They’re also rich in vitamins A, B, C as well as potassium and folate. Beet roots can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a month.
How to eat it: Beet salad with goat cheese green apples and honey
Brussels sprout, a relative of cabbage, boasts some of the same health benefits as cabbage. Like other cruciferous veggies, Brussels sprouts have high levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants that can protect DNA from oxidative damage. Peak season for Brussels sprouts is late fall through early winter (September through February). Brussels sprouts can be kept in the fridge for a few weeks. The outer leaves will shrivel, so remove them just before cooking your sprouts.
How to eat it: Toss halved sprouts with olive oil and roast until crispy and brown. Top with a light coating of brown butter and sage for a side dish.
This vegetable is loaded with the antioxidant beta-carotene, a compound that converts to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is essential for a strong immune system and healthy eyes, skin and mucus membranes. The orange veggies are also loaded with vitamin C, cyanidins, and lutein, which are all antioxidants. Some studies show that eating carrots can reduce risk of cancer and even prevent cardiovascular disease. Carrots are available through late fall, although some varieties are harvested through the winter. Like many root vegetables, carrots will last for a few weeks if kept in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
How to eat it: Gingery carrot soup
This uncommon green is slightly bitter, but adds freshness to late-winter cooking. It’s a bit crunchy, like lettuce, and wilts easily, like spinach. It’s a member of the chicory family, so it is related to endive, radicchio, kale, and chard. Like other greens, escarole is high in folic acid, fiber, and vitamins A and K. Escarole grows through fall and early winter in warmer climates. This green is a bit delicate, so eat it quickly. Wrapped in paper towels and stored in an open plastic bag, escarole can be kept in the refrigerator for up to four days.
How to eat it: Salmon with escarole and lemon
Radicchio is a member of the chicory family along with endive and escarole. Its red and white, slightly spicy and bitter leaves are loaded with vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin K. There are three main varieties of radicchio available in the U.S.: Chiogga, Treviso, and Tardivo. Tardivo radicchio is available throughout the winter. Keep it in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic for up to three weeks.
How to eat it: Tuscan chopped salad with radicchio and kale
Fresh cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C; 100 g provides about 48.2 mg or 80% of daily recommended value. Vitamin-C is a proven antioxidant helps fight against harmful free radicals, boosts immunity, and prevents infections and cancers.
Its florets also contain about 2 g of dietary fiber per 100 g, providing about 5% of the recommended value. It contains good amounts of many vital B-complex groups of vitamins such as folates, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6) and thiamin (vitamin B1), niacin (B3) as well as vitamin K. These vitamins is essential in the sense that body requires them from external sources to replenish and required for fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism.
How to eat it: Penne with crispy cauiflower
A medium-sized pear supplies 212 milligrams of potassium. Potassium is a mineral that helps your heart beat normally and keeps your muscles working the way they are supposed to. The same pear contains about 10 percent of your daily requirement for vitamin C. Pears also supply a good dose of vitamin K to help clot your blood, as well as vitamin A for your eyes.
How to eat it: Winter pear salad with meyer lemon viniagrette
Do you enjoy cooking with fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables? Do you have a recipe that features seasonal fruits and veggies you think fellow Aggies would enjoy cooking? Submit your recipe today to Aria at firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be published! Chosen recipes will be featured in a special edition Aggie Seasonal Recipes cookbook. Recipes must be submitted before 2/27/15.