The good news is, though peaches are mostly gone until next year, there are wonderful produce options around for fall and winter. Some of them are even colorful too! Shopping seasonally can reduce your grocery budget, not to mention please your taste buds, which could be why the top meal delivery kits are advertising seasonal meals as well. Whether you’re buying a pre-packaged meal or not, here are some of the foods you can expect to find around this winter, fresh, seasonal, cheap and awfully tasty.
1. Deep Greens
While salad feels summery and light, perfectly suited to hot weather, there are plenty of great greens for cooking that grow best during the colder months of the year. There’s even a whole category of leafy foods called Winter Greens, including cabbage, bok choy, pak choy, spinach, kale, swiss chard, leeks, beet greens, several types of lettuce, and mustard. Peas and fennel aren’t leafy, but they’re tasty and grow through winter too, and you’ll find both in popular winter recipes.
Our Favorite Winter Green: Brussel Sprouts
Low on street cred but high in flavor, brussel sprouts are actually the bud of a mini kind of cabbage, and the U.S. produces almost 70 million pounds of them per year. They’re delicious roasted or sauteed, and go great with garlic, parmesan, balsamic vinegar or just a bit of olive oil and salt. Be careful not to overcook them, because they get grey and mushy and lose a lot of their nutritional value. When they’re overcooked, they also omit a sulfur smell (which they’re famous for). It’s easily avoided though by cooking them gently for only about 5-8 minutes. They’re high in fiber and like most greens, have a lot of iron, vitamin C, super high in potassium, vitamin A, and B vitamins. They’re also delicious.
Do an online search for Winter Citrus and you’ll see right away that the meal delivery companies are pouncing on this delicious, juicy opportunity for sweet, healthy and colorful fruit at the coldest time of the year. If you live somewhere really cold and snowy, oranges and grapefruits won’t be locally grown, but they will be shipped from nearby temperate climates and be sweet, juicy and fresh. In the U.S., most oranges for juice are produced in Florida, and only 12% of Florida oranges are produced for eating. Grocery shelves are always stocked with your favorite OJ, but don’t worry--there are plenty of California, Texas and Arizona oranges, tangerines, grapefruits and clementines to go around. Interestingly, America’s 5th most produced citrus fruit? The lovely tangelo, who’s name is a portmanteau of tangerine and pomelo but is really a cross between a mandarin and grapefruit. Citrus fruit makes great juice, obviously, but it also slices well into hot water for a tea-like drink, mixes happily into a healthy fruit salad (and prevents the apples from getting brown), and even seasons the best thai food--with limes, which aren’t sweet but add a bombshell flavor to the best foods around.
Try This Citrus: Kumquat
A Kumquat is a large olive-sized fruit that looks like an orange, with an edible peel. Interested? They’re sweet and tart, with the peel being the sweet part, but you should eat it all together--a bit like a soft Lemonhead made by nature, with one bite of juice inside. Originally a Chinese citrus, Kumquats are now grown in warm climates all over the world and if you can’t pick them up at your local grocery store, they’re sold on Amazon. Love ‘em as much as we do? They sell the little trees in pots too, so you can have an ever growing supply that smells absolutely sumptuous.
Kumquats are rich in vitamins A and C, fiber, calcium, and magnesium. They have smaller amounts of B vitamins, iron, potassium, copper and zinc. Some traditional Asian medicines credit them with treating colds, coughs, and supporting your respiratory tract and immune system. Some studies show they can even help you lose weight and lower blood sugar. They come into season in November, and fade out in July, so you have plenty of time to grab these perfect pop-in-your-mouth citrus treats.
3. Root Vegetables
Some root veggies, like parsnips and carrots, even taste sweeter with early frosts, so if you’re bummed by the cold, cheer up. Also called tubers or starchy vegetables, these underground treasures are hearty, easy to flavor and easy to cook. As long as the ground isn’t frozen solid (or there are indoor growing methods), these can be harvested all winter long. Radishes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, sunchokes (also called Jerusalem Artichoke), beets, and of course, the classic favorites: potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams. The fun thing? Many of them also produce tasty leaves, so you can enjoy them on both ends. Our favorite root vegetable dish? Peel them all, drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle them with salt and roast them in the oven for about an hour. You’ll have a healthy, warm, snack you can’t put down.
Get to Know: Yuca
Truthfully, it’s hard to pick a favorite tuber, as they’re so versatile and go together so well. Yuca root, or Cassava is actually a tuber, and comes mostly from South America and Africa (or warm parts of the States). It’s not related to the perennial shrub Yucca, despite its similar name. Interestingly, this is where tapioca comes from, and it’s the third-largest source of food carbohydrates in the tropics, after rice and corn. The more bitter version needs to be properly prepared to eat it, because it can be dangerous raw, and you should throw out the leaves. Raw Yuca root contains compounds of hydrogen cyanide, which disappear when roasted, fried or baked. It may sound dangerous, but it’s been used to help cure some cancers. It’s considered a drought tolerant crop, and because it can be bitter, farmers like that is doesn’t attract bugs.
You’ll recognize it by its distinct rooty look, somewhat like a long skinny sweet potato that’s not orange. In the grocery store, check freshness by breaking off the tip of the root to check the color. It should be snowy white and have a fresh radish-like crisp smell. Avoid it if it smells mildewy, is soft, or has blemishes. Eat it any way you like, though, like all root veggies, we like it thinly sliced like fries and roasted with some oil and salt, or buy Cassava flour (tapioca starch) for baking. You can cream it, mash it, fry it or bake all kinds of yummy confections. You can even make delicious flatbreads.
Buy Seasonal Produce
Seasonal food is fresher, tastes better, and is more nutritious than food eaten in its off-season. It often supports your local industry as well as your wallet. You can expect to find these foods (and more winter favorites) in your grocery store, farmers market, or meal delivery kit this winter. Keep an eye out for them. Enjoy them with some loose leaf tea, home-made hot cocoa, a fresh cup of coffee or your favorite wine pairing for winter time.
Can’t be bothered to cook or didn’t find kumquats or yuca in the store? Pre-prepared meal companies often have access to a wide range of products and markets that you wouldn’t find quickly, with a price and convenience that can’t be beat. It’s nice to eat warm hearty foods in the winter time, but that doesn’t mean they have to be boring! Saute up some collard greens and kale, juice an orange or broil a grapefruit, and roast or mash some tubers for a healthy, hearty meal to share with family and friends this winter.