It seems somewhat counter-intuitive to think about fresh food that might be available during the winter, since the outdoors look little more than a dead zone. But there are a fair amount of foods that can withstand the cold and continue to grow during these months. Sure, there might be fewer in-season foods in winter than in summer, but there are some great healthy ones that are growing right now. And with less around to choose from now is the perfect time to enjoy some power foods that you wouldn’t normally eat to help boost your health and immunity.
Sometimes when foods become popular it’s because everyone just wants to jump on the bandwagon. But sometimes it is because the food really is that good and worth all of the hype; kale is a prime example of the latter of these two reasons. Not only does it have a range of health benefits — it’s high in fiber, iron, and calcium with virtually no calories and zero fat — but it’s also a really hearty green, making it a total cold weather vegetable. It’s peak season is late fall to spring: aka right now! This is why you probably see kale in many soups and stews around these months. It also always makes a great salad and is up to be sauteed anytime you want. Like I said earlier, this vegetable continues to be worth all the hype.
While we might have to give up our berries and stone fruits until the summer, we don’t have to give up our fresh fruit eating entirely. Persimmons come into season in the late fall and stay until the end of February, which means we’ve got a few weeks left to enjoy these babies. Many grocery stores carry persimmons so if you think yours doesn’t, just look around a bit more because it’s possible they’ve slipped right past you. There are two common varieties and it’s important to know which ones you get because there’s major differences between the two. If you have Hachiya persimmons make sure they are fully ripe (soft and jelly-like to the touch) before you eat them, because they are not pleasant and virtually unpalatable to eat if you try them before. However, the other variety, Fuyu, can be enjoyed or baked with at any stage. So just be aware of the kind you have and you’re all set.
Another healthy vegetable that holds up tremendously in winter are Brussels sprouts. Considering they grow on on a stiff vine and are pretty hardy themselves, it’s really no surprise they can make it through the cold season. Like kale, they also are one of the healthiest foods around. Brussels are high in folate, fiber, and vitamin c — three things your body needs to keep it running. They also can be prepared many different ways; a simple roast in the oven with olive oil, salt, and red pepper flakes, sauteed with balsamic on the stove top, or shaved to be the base of a filling salad are a few of my favorite ways to enjoy them in the winter (or all year around, actually).
This bright flavor (and color!) is sure to bring some levity to these cold and gray days. Pomegranates are fruit but really lend themselves well to a multitude of dishes, including many savory ones. You can add them to that kale salad that you’re making, or reduce them into a sauce to serve with meat. Of course they taste great baked into cakes, blended into smoothies or sprinkled on your oatmeal or in cereal. You could also just eat them on their own! Poms are known as an anti-inflammatory (great to eat if you are feeling a little bloated or puffy) and are high in fiber. They’ve got a healthy dose of vitamin C so if you are worried about catching that cold or flu it seems everybody has, don’t feel bad about stocking up on these.
Ah, my personal favorite food here and one of my very favorite things winter has to offer us — citrus season. Citrus fruit can be used in so many ways from dressings to baked goods and I like to think of them as the little shining stars in the cold winter months. If you are looking to enjoy some citrus that are only around now look for Meyer Lemons, which are a tad sweeter than standard lemons are have a thinner skin and a more rounded appearance. Another favorite are blood oranges, also known as Moro or Cara Cara oranges. These taste very similar to navel oranges (just a tad sweeter) but the real beauty from these lies in the gorgeous dark pink or red color they have inside. Use either fruit wherever a standard citrus would go (how about zesting them into cookies?) for yummy results.
Squash tends to get the most attention in the Fall and then shoved aside for the rest of the year. Maybe it’s due to them being used for decorations or maybe it’s because a squash of the round and orange variety has been hijacked by the general public and turned into just about any form of food you could think of. But regardless of the reason, Winter is not the time to drop the squashes! This is especially the case if you are using this new year as a time to commit to your health because not only are squash good for you, but there’s a large variety to choose from. They are filling and have good carbohydrates as well as a good amount of antioxidants. Buttercup, acorn, and butternut squash make a great addition to any soup or stew when diced. Spaghetti squash, when pulled with a fork, can work as a base for red sauce aka a healthy “pasta” replacement. And just about any squash can be roasted with some olive oil, salt, and pepper as a very healthy side for dinner.
What do you like to eat during winter?
Featured image is from bosstweed on flickr.