Unless you live someplace like California or Florida, eating fresh can be tricky during the winter months, and even in those warm locales, changing seasons still means changing availability of favorite crops. It’s not impossible to keep up your fruit and vegetable rotation in the cold seasons, but it does require some extra knowledge and technique.
Most families have a limited range of fruit and vegetable intake, stocking up every week with bell peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, apples and the like. You can find these year-round in most mega-marts because they ship them in from the southern hemisphere — by means that reduce their nutritional benefit. By opening yourself to new experiences, you vastly improve your options for eating fresh.
Some winter-season options to try include brussels sprouts, persimmons, leeks, kiwifruit, beets, guava, kale and most citrus fruits like grapefruits and oranges. You can even buy winter-season cookbooks to help you cook these new options into the most delicious meals possible.
Knowing Your Canned and Frozen Goods
Although not exactly “eating fresh,” it still serves the purpose and can get you through the winter. Many fruits and vegetables retain their nutrition and even taste better when frozen than if picked unripe and shipped long distances — so opt for frozen berries in your smoothie, and frozen broccoli in your stir fry.
On a similar note, a few vegetables are better canned than shipped, including favorites like peas and green beans. Tomatoes are a special case, as the canning process not only preserves the nutrients, but actually releases nutritional value that’s unavailable in the raw form.
Visiting Farmer’s Markets
You probably already hit the local farmer’s market in the summer to get your favorite produce fresh. Winter markets are typically smaller and less crowded, and offer exactly the kind of new produce you need to eat fresh all winter long. Ask the folks in the stalls what those brave, new foods are called, what they’re good for and how to cook them.
Many communities have one or more farming cooperatives in which you can buy shares of a crop. This amounts to a food subscription, where you go every week to pick up your share of whatever the local farmers grew. These are often known as CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), and can be found around the country. CSA boxes are often the easiest way to eat fresh and local all year ’round.
A final option is to grow your own favorite produce under conditions that convince the plant that it’s still summertime. An indoor garden, be it in your garage, a greenhouse, or your windowsill, is one way to do this. By keeping the heat at an elevated temperature, and intensifying light through windows, you create the conditions that get your crops to produce all year long. If you’re up for a real experiment, you can use hydroponics to accomplish the same thing.
Indoor gardening requires extra space and not a little time, but if you do it right you’ll have your favorite fresh produce all year long. Most communities will have a resource, club or similar group to teach you how.
What are some of your favorite ways to cook winter foods? Share your recipes in the comments to help fellow readers make it through to next summer.
“Eat, Drink and Be Healthy”, Dr. Walter Willett, et. al., 2002