When spring comes, we get all excited that asparagus and fresh green peas are back in season. We can’t stop raving about summer and the bounty of fresh fruits and veggies that the season brings. And autumn is a celebration of all things pumpkin and holidays. But when winter comes, people don’t talk so much about eating seasonal produce. That’s a shame because winter brings us lots of fresh, delicious fruits, and vegetables that are at their peak during this season.
Plus, many of us tend to eat a little less healthy during the winter when we’re cold and craving carbs and sweets. If you, like me, fall into that group, you should take a look at the 10 Commandments for Healthy Eating in the Winter Months for tips on eating healthier. If you are also prone to colds and flu during the winter, you’ll want to know the Healthy, Winter Foods That Keep Your Immune System Humming. Even if your farmers market is closed, you can still get fresh produce. Check out Your Guide to Obtaining Fresh, Organic Produce in The Middle of Winter to see where you can shop for winter’s bounty. Once you stock up, here’s how to cook with seasonal winter produce.
Though I grew up on canned beets, nothing beats (no pun intended) the taste of fresh beets – plus, you get the greens attached! They’re super-healthy and come in lots of different colors. With their sweet and earthy flavor, beets are nature’s candy. They’re also extremely versatile as you can eat them raw or cook them in a variety of ways for savory dishes as well as desserts. Beets are also useful for making natural red and pink food coloring.
To me, beets are most delicious when they’re roasted as in this Roasted Carrot and Beet Salad with Lemon Confit, Sesame Roasted Beets and Greens, and my Roasted Beet Burgers. Beets can be spiralized into noodles like these Roasted Beet Noodles with Crispy Shallots and in this No-Noodle Pad Thai. Beets make beautiful soups like this Beet Salmorejo (Spanish Pureed Soup) and this Creamy Beet and Ginger Soup with a Coconut Swirl. You’ll forget about potato chips when you try these Olive Oil Oregano Beet Chips. Beets pair well with chocolate as you’ll see when you try this Chocolate Beet Cake. For more recipes and tips, see 10 Ways to Cook with Beets.
2. Broccoli and Broccoli Rabe
We get to eat broccoli year-round, so we may not think of it as a seasonal veggie, but like all cruciferous vegetables, broccoli is at its peak in colder months. Broccoli rabe is actually a member of the turnip family. To learn more about both of these, see The Best Ways to Select, Store and Cook Different Types of Broccoli. Broccoli is highly versatile and can be enjoyed raw, blanched, steamed, and roasted. Enjoy it in a salad like this Fresh Crunchy Broccoli Quinoa Salad, fry them up in these Broccoli and Cheddar Fritters, puree them into this Broccoli and Coconut Soup or turn them into these Baked Broccoli Burgers. You can use every part of the broccoli – the florets, leaves, and stems. Add the leaves to a salad, saute the chopped up stems or spiralize them into noodles for this Tofu Scramble with Broccoli Noodles. See 12 Ways to Enjoy Broccoli for more recipes.
Broccoli rabe is more bitter than broccoli and is cooked the same way you would other dark, leafy greens. Sautéing is probably the most popular method though broccoli rabe should be blanched first to get rid of the bitterness. Try my Sautéed Garlicky Broccoli Rabe, this Sautéed Broccoli Rabe with Red Chile Flakes, and this Broccoli Rabe Potato Pizza with Carrot-Miso Sauce and Hazelnuts.
3. Brussels Sprouts and Cabbage
Brussels sprouts and cabbage fall into one category because the sprouts are, after all, just little cabbages. And though Brussels sprouts are so much cuter, they don’t get all the love that cabbage does. I think the majority of people who say they don’t like Brussels sprouts have just never had them cooked correctly (hint: do NOT boil them); that’s why I wrote 5 Ways to Get Anyone to Love Brussels Sprouts. Brussels sprouts can be eaten raw in salads, fried until crispy or roasted to a caramelized perfection. Try them in this Risotto with Crispy Brussels Sprouts, Kimchi and Brussels Sprouts Stir-Fry, Sesame Brussels Sprouts Curry, and Warm Lentil and Brussels Sprouts Salad with Radicchio Wedges.
Cabbage, on the other hand, is popular all over the world. It’s also versatile and can be eaten raw in salads and slaws or cooked in a variety of ways (again, avoid boiling it). Check out 10 Ways to Give Cabbage a Try and Cook With It Tonight and Global Ways to Cook with Cabbage. Try this Kale, Purple Cabbage and Carrot Slaw with Shallot Vinaigrette, Cabbage Rolls, Wheat Berries and Mushroom Filled Savoy Cabbage Boats with Mustard Miso Sauce, and this Home-Style Andean Cabbage Curry.
We eat cauliflower all year long, but winter is when it’s at its peak. Cauliflower has become the hottest ingredient around as people discover just how versatile it is. Cauliflower can be eaten raw, roasted, turned into burgers, pureed into soup, and used to make pizza crust. It can stand in for rice, meat, and just about anything you can think of. Take a look at Cauliflower is the New Kale: Try These Recipes and Cauliflower is Hot! Try These 15 Cauliflower Recipes This Summer to see all the different ways you can cook with it.
Get our your steak knives to enjoy this Cauliflower Steak with Pesto and Almond Cornmeal Crumbs. You’ll love this Cauliflower Veggie Burger and this Cauliflower Curry Soup. Jazz up pizza night with this Buffalo Cauliflower Pizza with Blue Cheeze Spread or skip the carbs with this Pasta-Free Baked Cauliflower and Cheese with Peas.
5. Clementines, Mandarins, Oranges, and Tangerines
When the days are shorter and darker, a burst of sunny orange is just what we need – not to mention all the vitamin C. Winter brings us Clementines which are small, sweet oranges, sweet and juicy Mandarins, the oranges we all know and love, and sweet little tangerines. Still not sure what the difference is? Read Know Your Oranges: Use the Right Oranges for the Right Recipe to get them straight. Of course, it’s fun and delicious to just munch on these sweet citrus fruits, but they can also be used in cooking and baking. Use the juice in smoothies, dressings, and marinades and use the zest in icing and on top of veggies, so no part goes to waste.
Try Clementines in this Poppy Seed Clementine Bundt Cake and this Cranberry and Clementine Chutney. Mandarin oranges are the stars of this Raw Mandarin Carrot Cake with Lemon Cream and this Yogurt Mandarin Cake with Amaranth Crust. Oranges brighten up this Double Chocolate Orange Cheesecake, Sticky Peanut Orange Cauliflower Wings, and Chocolate Dipped Candied Oranges. Adorable tangerines can be used in both sweet and savory dishes like this Lemon and Tangerine Cake and these Tangerine-Roasted Root Veggies.
Unlike so many vegetables, fennel was not new to me when I began expanding my diet. I used to eat raw fennel as a snack when I was a child. It’s crunchy, and it tastes like licorice – two qualities guaranteed to make any kid happy. In a sense, fennel is similar to celery but with a stronger flavor. It pairs well with oranges to make a beautiful salad. Fennel is also delicious when cooked. It can be added to soups, stews, and pasta dishes. The fronds are also edible and make a pretty garnish. See 10 Ways to Cook with Fennel Tonight for different ways to prepare it.
Recipes you should definitely try include Soufflé with Roasted Fennel, Zucchini and Garlic, Arugula, Kiwi and Fennel Salad, Grapefruit Coriander Fennel Bites, Fennel Pies (Marathopites), and Warm Fennel and Pomegranate Salad.
7. Grapefruit and Pomelos
Grapefruit comes into season in January and stays with us until summer. Pomelos are large, grapefruit-like fruits that are also juicy and delicious. You might think grapefruit is for breakfast, but it can be used in both sweet and savory recipes. Add grapefruit to your smoothies to make them even healthier like this Pineapple Grapefruit Kale Smoothie and this Green Superfood Detox Smoothie. Balance tart and sweet when you bake these Chocolate Chip Cookies with Grapefruit and Anise and this Grapefruit Coconut Bread with Hazelnut Frosting. This Grapefruit Sorbet with Mint is cool and refreshing while this Grapefruit Crème Brulée is indulgent and delicious. If pomelos are new to you, get acquainted with this Pomelo Salad with Roasted Coconut.
8. Root Veggies
Not only do root veggies come into season during winter but all of December is National Root Vegetables Month. Root vegetables are healthy, versatile and delicious. They include beets, carrots, celery root, daikon, garlic, ginger, horseradish, Jerusalem artichokes, jicama, kohlrabi, onions, parsnips, radishes, rutabagas, turmeric, turnips, yams, and yucca.
Root vegetables can be cooked in every way you can think of – braised, steamed, grilled, braised, and roasted – you get the idea. Read The Best Ways to Chop and Prep Your Favorite Root Veggies and then check out How to Cook With Delicious Root Veggies – 10 Different Ways! and Celebrate Root Veggies All Month With These 31 Awesome Recipes.
I don’t have room to tell you all the amazing recipes there are with root veggies but here are my top choices: Root Veggie Mash, Root Veggie Au Gratin, Easy Roasted Root Veggies, Sweet Potato and Root Veggie Shepherd’s Pie, Chili Cheese Turnip/Yam Fries, Carrot Dogs, and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Truffle Oil.
9. Leafy Greens
Dark, leafy greens including kale, radicchio, and chicories are sweetest (least bitter) in the winter. We all know we should eat our greens and we can help you with that. Learn all the different types in Your Ultimate Guide to Leafy Greens and then see 20 Ways to Add More Leafy Greens to Your Diet and 10 Creative (and Delicious) Ways to Flavor Raw Leafy Greens.
Enjoy kale in these Lemony Kale Chips, Comforting Kale Pesto Pasta Casserole, Baked Roasted Poblano Kale Falafel, and Spicy Kale and Quinoa Black Bean Salad. Radicchio is in this delicious Warm Lentil and Brussels Sprout Salad With Roasted Radicchio Wedges and The Best Veggie Big Mac with Radicchio Slaw.
10. Kiwis and Persimmons
You may not think about tropical fruits as winter foods but kiwis and persimmons are in season during the colder months. They add a bit of sunshine and color to our winter. Learn about persimmons in Persimmons: To Know Them is to Love Them and then try them for yourself in this Chestnut Persimmon Crepe Cake, Persimmon Parfait with Hazelnut Crunch, Triple Persimmon Nachos, and Persimmon and Turmeric Cheesecake Slice.
Kiwis are adorable little fruits that are fuzzy and brown on the outside but bright green and pretty on the inside. They can also help us to sleep better. Enjoy them in this Tropical Raspberry Kiwi Smoothie, Arugula, Kiwi and Fennel Salad, and this Raw Kiwi Tart with Mint, Ginger, and Coconut.
These are just some of the delicious foods that come into their peak during winter. There are also lemons, potatoes, pears, leeks, and so many more. So there’s no need to think you have to wait for spring to enjoy fresh produce. Winter suddenly doesn’t seem so bad anymore, does it?
Lead image source: Kale, Purple Cabbage, and Carrot Slaw With Tangy Shallot Vinaigrette