Snow-covered evergreens, cozy blankets, warm fires, and rich hot chocolate… Winter has a lot going for it, but fresh produce is usually not on that list. In colder climates, eating locally through the winter can be challenging. However, with a bit of planning and creativity, it’s possible to eat fresh vegetables with plenty of nutrients and flavor all winter long. Below are some winter foods to try this season:
This super-healthy, budget-friendly vegetable is a close cousin to other cold-weather favorites like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, and broccoli. Cabbage is loaded with vitamins and minerals (Vitamins C and K and folate, in particular), fiber, antioxidants, and anti-carcinogenic compounds called glucosinolates.
- Peak Season: While some strains of cabbage are available starting in July, most varieties love cool weather and are ready for harvest through the fall and winter.
- Storage Tips: Tightly wrap individual heads of cabbage in plastic and stash in the refrigerator to keep them fresh for up to a week.
- How to Eat It: Cabbage’s nutritional benefits are most pronounced when raw, so slice up a few leaves to add crunch to salads or stir fries.
2. Brussels Sprouts
The Brussels sprout boasts some of the same health benefits as it’s larger cabbage cousin. Like other cruciferous veggies, Brussels sprouts have high levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants that can protect DNA from oxidative damage, thus it’s thought to protect against cancer and slow the aging process.
- Peak Season: September through February
- Storage Tips: Brussels sprouts will keep in the fridge for a few weeks. The outer leaves will shrivel, so remove them just before cooking your sprouts.
- How to Eat It: Toss halved sprouts with olive oil and roast until crispy and brown. Top with a light coating of brown butter and sage for a decadent (but still healthy) side dish.
3. Winter Squash
Acorn, butternut, kabocha, and delicata squash are all at their prime during the fall and winter. Golden squash flesh is loaded with healthy goodness like carotenoids, Vitamin A, and potassium.
- Peak Season: Winter squash hit the markets around late September and stick around through early March.
- Storage Tips: Even though they seem pretty solid, squash continue to ripen once they’re picked. Slow down the process by storing them in a cool, slightly humid environment (like, say, a basement or cellar). Under the right conditions, squash will keep for up to three months.
- How to Eat It: Since squash is healthy, fairly inexpensive, filling, and darn tasty, it’s no wonder there are thousands of awesome recipes for them.
Potatoes get a bad rap for being starchy and high on the glycemic index, but they’re also filling, inexpensive, and boast an impressive nutritional profile including potassium, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin C, and even some protein. Fancy purple potatoes may even help lower blood pressure and boost antioxidants. While sweet potatoes are considered a healthier choice (since they’re loaded with beta-carotene, vitamins A and C, and fiber), regular white spuds are still nutritious as long as you don’t fry them or mash them with tons of butter and cream.
- Peak Season: Various varieties of potatoes are available year-round.
- Storage Tips: Store potatoes in a dark, cool, well-ventilated area for about one month. Keep spuds away from onions and apples. At room temperature, potatoes will keep for one to two weeks.
- How to Eat It: Try a healthier take on the classic baked potato bar. Twice-baked spuds stuffed with kale, broccoli, and cheddar make for a tasty and comforting meal.
Ideal for flavoring anything from soup, to grain salads, to pasta, to meat, onions are a year-round kitchen all-star. They might make you cry, but onions are actually pretty healthy. Onions contain vitamin C and fiber, as well as the bone-strengthening and cancer-fighting phytonutrient Allicin. The oils found in onions can lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels and raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol
- Peak Season: Various types of onions are available all year round.
- Storage Tips: Stash onions outside the fridge (they can go soft if refrigerated) in a cool, dry place for several months.
- How to Eat It: Sautéed white onion jazzes up this fig, ricotta, and arugula flatbread pizza.
Beets contain antioxidants called betalains, which can help fight cancer and other degenerative diseases. They’re also rich in vitamins A, B, C as well as potassium and folate. Beet greens are also a great source of iron, essential for women struggling with fatigue and depression.
- Peak Season: Beets are available early spring through late fall.
- Storage Tips: Store beet roots in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a month.
- How to Eat It: Toss roasted beets and carrots with lentils and plenty of fresh herbs and spices to make a hearty, healthy vegetarian main dish.
Celeriac is probably the ugly duckling of winter produce, but beyond the odd exterior, celeriac boasts a tasty, subtle flavor — somewhere between parsley and celery — and a hearty texture. It’s low in calories, high in fiber, and rich in vitamin C (a powerful antioxidant) and phosphorus (which contributes to strong bones and teeth).
- Peak Season: September through March.
- Storage Tips: Like other root veggies, celeriac will stay fresh in the fridge for up to a month.
- How to Eat It: Sub in celeriac for almost any root vegetable. Cube and sauté it for a tasty, healthy substitute for hash browns.
Carrots are loaded with the antioxidant beta-carotene, a compound that converts to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is essential for a strong immune system and healthy eyes, skin, and mucus membranes. The orange veggies are also loaded with vitamin C, cyanidins, and lutein, which are all antioxidants. Some studies show that eating carrots can reduce risk of cancer and even prevent cardiovascular disease.
- Peak Season: Available through late fall, although some varieties are harvested through the winter.
- Storage Tips: Like many root vegetables, carrots will keep in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for several weeks.
- How to Eat It: Bring out carrots’ natural sweetness with a side dish that combines the orange veggies, cinnamon, orange juice, and maple syrup.
9. Turnips and Rutabagas
These purple-and-white bulbs might look like potatoes, but they’re actually related to cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Turnips and rutabagas are often overlooked in the produce aisle. But they have a lot of the same nutritional benefits as other cruciferous veggies (namely cancer-fighting glucosinolates, vitamins C and K, folate, potassium, fiber, and calcium), plus their slightly sweet taste is a boon to nearly any dish.
- Peak Season: Available all winter long.
- Storage Tips: Keep turnips and rutabagas in the fridge for a few weeks or in a root cellar for several months.
- How to Eat It: What’s cheesy, gooey, and surprisingly good for you? A lightened-up simple turnip gratin! Rutabagas can be subbed in for any dish that calls for turnips.
These (white) carrot look-alikes are packed with nutritional goodness. The long, pale, tapered root veggies are loaded with fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and folate. Like carrots, they have a slightly sweet, earthy flavor that goes well with nearly any winter soup, stew, or casserole. Half a cup of cooked ‘snips contains 17 percent of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin C and just 55 calories.
- Peak Season: Parsnips are at their best in the late fall and early spring.
- Storage Tips: Store parsnips in a bag in the refrigerator for three to four weeks.
- How to Eat It: Combine roasted parsnips with Granny Smith apples (and a few other essential ingredients) for a smooth, fall-flavored soup.
11. Sweet Potatoes
These orange-hued delights are loaded with fiber, beta-carotene, vitamins A and C, and antioxidants. Plus, since they’re fairly low on the glycemic index, they’re great for filling up without skewing your blood sugar and energy levels.
- Peak Season: Sweet potatoes are available year-round, but they’re best in the fall.
- Storage Tips: Keep sweet potatoes in a cool, dry place outside the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
- How to Eat It: Pies, candied, baked, stuffed… the list goes on.
Radicchio (pronounced ra-DIK-kio) is a member of the chicory family along with endive and escarole. Its red and white, slightly spicy and bitter leaves are loaded with vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin K. Plus, this leafy veg is extremely low in calories, so add it to any dish for a low-cal dose of crunch and flavor.
- Peak Season: There are three main varieties of radicchio available in the U.S., Chiogga, Treviso, and Tardivo. Tardivo radicchio is available throughout the winter.
- Storage Tips: Keep it in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic for up to three weeks.
- How to Eat It: Sautéed radicchio adds a kick (and a nice serving of vitamins and minerals) to pasta.