Most of us give up on finding local organic produce once the cooler months move in, but there are still many fruits and vegetables that are at their best in fall and winter. These can still be found in farmers’ markets, health food markets, and your local grocery store without having to come from distant countries along a hefty price. You don’t have to rely on the expensive produce that has burned through a good deal of fossil fuels getting to you and is severely lacking in flavor because it was picked well before it was ripe.
Many local farmers will also extend their growing season with greenhouses, so get to know your neighbors and keep your ear open for deals on herbs and veggies. Here are some of our favorite winter fruits and veggies to use more now that the chill has begun.
Root Vegetables – Root vegetables are a hardy lot that make it well into winter without too much difficulty. They also store very well. Carrots, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, turnips, parsnips, beets, and radishes can all be found in their prime right now. They are inexpensive, filling, and delicious in soups and mashes or roasted with a little garlic and olive oil. Root vegetables are rich in fiber and the complex carbohydrates your body craves when it is colder.
Cruciferous Vegetables – Most of these are available year-round, but they are at their sweetest during the colder months. These include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, cress, bok choy, brussels sprouts, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, arugula, and turnip greens. It seems to be a common theme that many winter vegetables work well roasted or in soups.
Citrus Fruits – Many citrus fruits are harvested into the winter months and are their sweetest only when the chill air hits. Lemons, oranges, kumquats, tangerines, pomelos, and clementines along with other mandarin varieties are all great treats during winter that can travel shorter distances from Florida and California or come from small greenhouse trees closer to home.
Alliums – These savory herbs and vegetables survive well into the cooler months and many of them also store well into winter in your garage, pantry, or fridge. Alliums include onions, garlic, shallots, and leeks. They are a delicious addition to almost any meal.
Winter Squash – The name says it all. Winter squash grow through the summer into fall, but their thick rinds mean they save well too, allowing them to be available into the winter months. They are a low calorie, fiber rich source of valuable carotenoids, vitamins, and minerals during winter. Butternut and pumpkin are the most known varieties, but there are so many more to choose from, each with its own unique flavor and texture. Winter squash are amazing in soups, vegetable stews, vegetable chilies, mashes, or roasted with root veggies.
Other Fruits – Not too many fruits do well with the winter, but pears and persimmons are two exceptions that tolerate the cooler weather remarkably well. Kiwi is picked in the cooler months as well.
Other Veggies – Celery isn’t commonly thought of as sweet, but it is at its sweetest and most flavorful when picked in the cooler months. It also keeps fairly well in your fridge. You can even bring limp celery back to life with an ice water bath in a pinch. Fennel is also a good winter vegetable. Spinach and many other greens are also more delicious in the cooler weather and can be grown easily to the micro size during winter in greenhouses or even on your windowsill.