Healthy Winter Produce
As each year ends, a new season arrives. And with it a supply of fresh ingredients that offer you comfort from the cold. From hardy root vegetables to bright, sweet citrus, winter produce delivers a surprising range of flavors for you to enjoy with family and friends.
Blood oranges are best eaten fresh—out-of-hand, or in salads, salsas, or marmalades. The two most popular varieties are the dark-fleshed Moro, which is available from December through March, and the delicately flavored Tarocco, which you can find from January through May. To select, pick those that are firm to the touch and heavy for their size. Avoid any fruits with mold or spongy spots.
Fresh beets are now commonplace on fine-restaurant menus. With hues ranging from yellow to purple, they lend themselves to dramatic presentations.
To select, choose small to medium beets with firm, smooth skin and no soft spots, with stems and leaves attached.
Although the membranes of pomegranates are bitter and inedible, the pulp and seeds contribute a juicy, sweet-tart flavor to many winter recipes. To select, choose pomegranates that feel heavy, are bright in color, and are free of blemishes.
Fresh kumquats are in season as early as October and as late as June, but they’re most plentiful from December through April. To select, test with a gentle squeeze, and buy only firm fruit.
Often called winter greens, turnip greens are actually available almost year-round. But in deep winter, they become sweeter. The greens aren’t the only good product of this vegetable, however. The roots can be boiled and mashed or roasted and pureed; they can also be cubed and tossed with butter or used raw in salads.
Although leeks resemble large green onions, they’re milder and sweeter. Leeks are usually cooked since they’re very fibrous when raw.
This hardy root vegetable enjoys cool climates—it requires frost to convert its starches to sugars and to develop its sweet, nutty flavor. To select, look for small to medium-sized parsnips with beige skin. They should be blemish-free and firm.
Consider using kale as a stand-in for spinach in other dishes. Its sturdy leaves are excellent sautéed and added to casseroles. To select, look for a deep blue-green color and choose small bunches devoid of any signs of wilting or discoloration.
Unlike any other fruits, cranberries need to be cooked to release their full flavor and to absorb that of other ingredients—one of which is sugar. To select, you probably won’t be able to choose them individually, so check the see-through plastic to make sure you get bright, intensely colored berries.
Whether you use the juice, the zest (rind), or the slices, the acidity of lemon adds to the balance of flavor in all types of food. To select, look for smooth, brightly-colored skin (green means under-ripe), and lemons that feel heavy for their size.
Whether sectioned, sliced, juiced, or zested, these juicy fruits are a kitchen staple. To select, choose firm oranges that have smooth skins and are not moldy. Don’t worry about brown patches on the skin; this does not indicate poor quality.