Winter brings more than just shorter days and colder temperatures. This time of year also presents an opportunity to expand your food horizons and get your taste buds excited for all the variety the season has to offer. Eating seasonally increases your overall health by nourishing your body with an array of essential vitamins and minerals.
Additionally, choosing seasonal foods helps to promote sustainable food practices and has less of an impact on the environment.
So, how do you know what’s in season? Here are some clues that will help when you are shopping at your local grocer. Price, quantity and source country are a good place to start. You’ll notice your favorite summer delicacies like strawberries and stone fruits have a very small presence in the produce section, have nearly doubled in price or are missing from the store altogether. When items like fruit are out of season, they are often flown in from more tropical countries, increasing the fruit’s footprint and decreasing its nutritional value. If you need nonseasonal items, look for those that have been grown in countries closer to home.
Another way to ensure you’re getting what’s in peak season is to sign up for a community-supported agriculture (CSA) membership. These services work with nearby farms to select and share produce that is grown locally and seasonally. Although you typically don’t get much choice of what foods you receive, rest assured you’ll be in for a culinary adventure that will encourage you to include the freshest, most seasonable ingredients in your cooking every week.
The ultimate way to find out what’s in season is to take a trip to a few local farms. Not only will you get the freshest produce possible, you’ll also be supporting your local economy. Not up for the drive? Find out if your city hosts a local farmers’ market, and opt to buy your fruits and veggies there instead of from the grocery store. Here’s a mini cheat sheet to get you started.
- Broccoli: Although it’s available year-round, broccoli is at its peak in the cooler months.
- Brussels sprouts: If you can, buy sprouts on the stalk; they’ll last longer and taste fresher.
- Endive: Great for salads or stuff with pear and blue cheese for an easy, beautiful appetizer.
- Pumpkins: Use the meat of the pumpkin for soups or baking and the seeds for an easy treat.
- Snow peas: Add crisp snow peas for a dash of green in your vegetable stir-fry.
- Spinach: Winter spinach is greener, leafier and tastier.
- Squash: Acorn, butternut, spaghetti—each one has a different, delicious taste and texture.
- Sweet potatoes & yams: Try baking a whole potato or yam as a filling, low-fat snack.
- Apples: Fall and winter provide a delicious assortment of apples from honeycrisp to Granny Smith.
- Cranberries: Let cranberries be more than just a side dish to turkey this year.
- Grapes: Stick with red grapes throughout the end of the year for the sweetest flavor.
- Kiwis: Even though they may remind you of tropical islands, kiwis are ripest during the coldest time of year.
- Pears: Bartlett, d’anjou, bosc—pears are in their heyday this time of year.
- Persimmons: Delicious in a salad or mixed in baked goods for a tangy twist.
- Pomegranates: Add the seeds, which are a great source of vitamins A and C, to a salad, or make a marmalade.
- Satsuma oranges and tangerines: These easy-to-peel fruits are a great, vitamin C–filled treat.
Try eating a different seasonal fruit or vegetable each week and cooking a meal with locally grown ingredients this month. Varying what you eat boosts your immune system and improves your body’s ability to fight cancer-causing free radicals. Along with the health benefits for you and your family, eating locally grown food supports your community’s economy and has positive implications for the environment, which affects our global community too.
[These tips were brought to you by our friends at Fig. Fig's app helps you to pursue wellness holistically. They encourage laughter, date nights, napping, checking in with friends and having a positive outlook in addition to eating well and exercising. We appreciate this well-rounded approach (and naps), so we thought we’d give them a shout-out. Check Fig out yourself by downloading the app for your iPhone.]