Winter Produce You Should Be Enjoying Right Now
Normally when you think of fresh produce, you think of sun-drenched spring trips to the farmer's market or the sweet juice of a fresh piece of fruit dripping down your chin on a warm summer night. But in fact, every season boasts its own crop of fresh, seasonal produce — even chilly, grey winter. What's more, because in-season produce doesn't need to travel as far from the farm to your plate, it's typically less expensive than out-of-season picks. Read on to discover the fruits and veggies you should be adding to your winter menu, plus genius and delicious ways to use them.
When they're in season: Peak season for Brussels sprouts is October to mid-February. For the freshest options, look for those sold still on their stalks.
What they taste like: These green buds can be crispy, snappy, crunchy and full of earthy, savory flavor. The key is to cook them in a way that offsets the bitterness that can come out when they are boiled or microwaved.
How to enjoy them: Brussels sprouts are at their most delicious when they are roasted or sautéed. For maximum flavor, top them with some Parmesan cheese after roasting, like in these Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan, or toss them with salty, crispy bacon, like in Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Almonds. If you prefer to steam, be sure to drizzle them with some extra-virgin olive oil or balsamic vinegar before eating to add sweetness.
When they're in season: Look for bags of these small citrus fruits from November to early February.
What they taste like: If you peel a small orange fruit and find seeds and a slightly sour flavor, you've likely picked up a mandarin and not a clementine. These winter fruits are seedless, sweet, and have softer membranes than some of their citrus cousins. You'll know they're fresh and ready to eat if they smell exactly how you expect them to taste when you pick them up at the market.
How to enjoy them: While clementines are a perfect snack to toss in your bag and enjoy on the go, they are also delicious in salads, especially when they're balanced by a peppery green like arugula, a rich cheese like feta or goat, and a fat like walnuts or avocado.
When it's in season: Even though you'll see it all year round in most grocery stores, kale peaks from January to early April.
What it tastes like: This traditionally bitter leafy green becomes sweeter after one or two frosts, so it's best to enjoy in early winter. When it's raw, kale is thick, hearty, earthy, and a bit bitter, though the flavor softens and becomes more mild when the green is cooked.
How to enjoy it: Those who enjoy the flavor of kale like to use it as a base for salads (dressed with plenty of olive oil to tenderize the leaves) or blended into a smoothie, but there are many ways to incorporate it into recipes. It works beautifully in soups, like this Sausage, Potato and Kale Soup, pressed into a decadent grilled cheese, or roasted and crisped up into chips.
When they're in season: Peak season for rutabagas is November through March.
What they taste like: A cross between cabbage and turnips, this root vegetable takes the best qualities of each. It has a mild flavor and a texture similar to potatoes though slightly less starchy, so when cooked it turns rich, golden and smooth.
How to enjoy them: Rutabaga is delicious prepared in many of the same ways as potatoes. You can mash it (with our without potatoes), turn it into fries, or roast it in a sweet and savory glaze, like in this Glazed Rutabaga recipe. Raw, sliced rutabaga is also a tasty and surprising addition to a crudité platter.
When they're in season: As the name suggests, squashes like butternut, acorn, delicata and kabocha are typically available from October through March.
What they taste like: Each winter squash is slightly different, but you can expect them all to be soft, nutty, and sweet. Butternut squash is most similar to sweet potatoes, while acorn squash is mild and buttery, and kabocha and delicata are the sweetest of all. Butternut squash needs to be peeled, but the skin of acorn, delicata, and kabocha squash turns soft and edible when cooked.
How to enjoy them: Squash is incredibly versatile, holding its own as a side dish and blending seamlessly into pastas, soups, and salads. They are all delicious simply roasted with salt, pepper, and olive oil, and even more mouthwatering when drizzled with honey or maple syrup before serving. Or to get fancier with it, try Smoked Sausage and Butternut Squash Pasta, Stuffed Acorn Squash or Creamy Delicata Squash Soup.