Feeling glum because there’s no locally-grown peaches, heirloom tomatoes or raspberries available in your grocery store? You may be tempted to go for the imported varieties, but we all know they just don’t make the grade for flavor or texture. The stuff that’s in season—and grown locally—might not sound as sexy (rutabagas and carrots, anyone?), but they can taste just as fabulous—and they’re great for your body, too. Here are five cold-weather produce varieties to embrace:
Winter time in Sacramento teems with a sunshiny array of citrus, from Meyer lemons and blood oranges to specialty grapefruit and famous Placer county mandarins. Sweet, high in vitamin C, and brightly flavored enough to chase away the grey sky gloomies, citrus can be peeled and eaten, made into cheer-inducing juices or even incorporated into desserts. (How about a bright yellow lemon meringue pie?)
There is a plethora of winter squash varieties, all with their own special personalities. Experiment with different kinds—butternut squash is wonderful when peeled, cubed, tossed with butter and brown sugar and roasted; Kabocha squash makes a stunning, creamy soup. Other varieties you’ll want to try include cute little acorn squash (excellent when stuffed with wild rice, toasted nuts and cranberries, then baked) and the quirky spaghetti squash, whose flesh, once cooked, transforms into long yellow strands that resemble spaghetti (think of it as a low-calorie substitute for pasta). A great source of vitamin A and fiber, winter squash is a healthy and delicious vegetable choice.
Who can resist a juicy bite of crisp, flavor-packed winter apple? Apples are easy to carry for snacking, are low in calories, and are a natural mouth freshener—and they’re also a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. And did you know that almost half of the vitamin C content of an apple is just underneath the skin? (so make sure to eat it, too). Delicious eating varieties include the Fuji, Gala, Honey Crisp, Braeburn and Pink Lady. And don’t forget to bake with apples—try making apple dumplings, crisps, pies and even sweet breads with this terrific winter fruit . Good baking varieties include the Gravenstein, Winesap, Arkansas Black, Granny Smith, Pippin and Red Rome.
There’s nothing like a hot mess of leafy greens to perk up your palate when it’s cold outside. Winter greens include Swiss chard, kale, arugula and collards, as well as the feistier beet, turnip and mustard greens. These wonderful veggies pack a substantial amount of vitamins A and C, and lesser—but still impressive—amounts of calcium, iron, potassium, folic acid and fiber. Toss a handful or two into soups, stews or pasta sauces just five to 10 minutes toward the end of cooking; or sauté a mixture of greens with garlic, olive oil and pancetta and place atop sliced French bread for a cozy winter nosh. Cooked greens can be also added to quiches, piled atop pizzas or polenta, or even incorporated into lasagna.
Delectable and nutritious, fresh walnuts are a very tasty winter treat. These crunchy nuts are one of the most nutrient-dense sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential omega-3 fatty acid in plant foods that may help reduce the risk for heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and clinical depression. Add a handful of toasted walnuts to salads (they’re especially delicious with endive, Roquefort cheese and pomegranate seeds), into your favorite baked goods (make sure to incorporate them to chocolate chip cookies, brownies and banana bread) or simply eat them by themselves. You’ll be healthier for it!