Winter is often a time that we associate with scarcity. The weather has turned bitterly cold, the ground covered in snow and ice, and veggie plants just aren’t into that. Thus, the winter is not the season for many of our most typical garden choices — peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, lettuce — but that isn’t to say that we don’t have fresh food options for the cold. In fact, they abound.
While it’s commonly known that homesteaders are into pickling, canning, and freezing their produce for the leaner months, that’s not the only option. In reality, there is quite a collection of fresh foods that store very well in root cellars and hanging baskets. With a little preparation, in fact, there is a rainbow of fresh vegetables to be had over the winter.
Root cellars are a great resource for keeping food fresh well into the wintertime. Obviously, the top choice for vegetables to be stored in root cellars would be root vegetables. This provides a multitude of choices, but amongst the best for nutrition, flavor, and durability are as follows:
Beets provide a vibrant red color to those wintertime dishes, and they provide a useful purse of vitamins and minerals right when our diet may start lacking them a little. They have a wonderful sweetness that has them fitting into an innovative dessert or a texture that suits them for burgers.
Turnips are an underutilized vegetable, really, but they store very well in a root cellar for some fresh flavors in the depths of winter. They can be eaten raw, caramelized, or mashed like potatoes, which also store well in the cellar.
Carrots bring one more color and yet another crunchy contender within our blizzard bevy. These are a classic vegetable in every sense, but they are a root that stores well. Put them in salads, soups, stews, cakes, and enjoy the health benefits year-round.
Sweet Potatoes round out this truncated list of root vegetables because they are so delicious and have a higher nutritional content than regular potatoes. We use them at Thanksgiving. We use them at Christmas. We ought to be using them all the time, be it baked as is or in a pie, puréed in a soup or in a drink, or fried up as chips or patties.
Salads aren’t really something we often associate with cold weather food, but the reality is that fresh, healthy salads are still largely at our disposal. We just have to change our approach a little. The following four veggies, especially when partnered with the aforementioned root veggies, combine to make some delicious winter salads:
Cabbages, whether we are talking broadly and including kale and others from the family or just regular green heads of cabbage, are the leafy veg of colder climates. They work perfectly in chopped salads and slaws, providing a crunchy texture, a heap of vitamins, and the satisfaction of a raw, leafy vegetable in winter.
Apples also store well in a root cellar. We never said our list was limited to vegetables. Apples have bulk fiber for our health, crisp sweetness for our palettes, and a great many uses for our recipes. Yes, they are fantastic in salads, as well as pies, applesauce, and hot apple cider.
Celery is often discounted, a vegetable somewhat ignored on the shopping list of many, but it is a backbone flavor in many well-prepared dishes, especially broth-y soups, and stuffings. It can also provide a crunch and watery burst to salads (pairs great with apple, in fact, hence the Waldorf salad). Store it in a bucket of sand in the root cellar.
Leeks are milder than onions but have a beautiful flavor. They are also another green vegetable that we can slice up and throw into our salad mixes. Or, potato and leek soup is always a crowd pleaser on a cold winter’s day.
The following four vegetables also store well through the winter, but they actually prefer drier conditions than a root cellar, such as in hanging baskets or open-air crates. Like many root vegetables, these, too, prefer to be cured a bit before being packed away for later. Then, they can be pulled out periodically to make delicious, health-promoting soups to combat the cold and the colds:
Onions & Garlic are from the same plant family, and they are great medicinal ingredients for helping us out with immune-boosting against the flu and colds that often come with drops in temperature. Whether it is in French onion soup or garlic playing a starring role in a combination job, these are two veggies always welcome in a soup recipe.
Pumpkins & Squash are also kinfolk and they are at the heart of so many delicious fall and winter recipes, especially soups that simply warm our souls. Cure them in the sun for a couple of weeks before storing them in a cool, dry place, and they can be called upon throughout the season for creamy, oh-so-good soups and roasts.
So, for those out there trying to grow their own food or stay local with their shopping, fear not: there is plenty available to get us through the winter, and luckily, that doesn’t have to mean surviving on canned foods alone. This dozen or more fresh vegetables can be at our disposal throughout the winter.
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