Jan 11, 2020

What’s in Season: Winter at the Farmer’s Market

While it may seem that winter arrives early based on the temperature around November and early December (not to mention holiday celebrations), the official start of the season is the winter solstice or shortest day of the year, December 21st.

Much to the dismay of those living in snow-heavy areas, the season lasts until March 19th. Some smaller farmer’s markets pack it in during the cold winter months, but plenty of larger ones remain open despite the low temperatures. Even if you can’t stop by a farmer’s market during winter, this post can be used as a guide for the best picks at your local grocery store.

More About Winter Produce

Winter produce is characterized by root vegetables dug up just before the ground freezes, and robust-flavored hearty winter greens like chards, collards, rapini and kale planted in late fall and harvested through March. Greens like these are sturdier and can stand up to sautés and braises or be included in soups for some added nutrients. Many have tough cellulose stems that need to be removed prior to cooking, and they can also be bitter so they are often best paired with rich flavors and ingredients.

I think my favorite winter produce has to be citrus. I love using winter’s lemons and limes for daily cooking, blood oranges and grapefruits for winter cocktails and key lime for pies. I enjoy snacking on clementines, peeling them to reveal their sweet and juicy segments. These small fruits are the perfect punch of vitamin C to fight off winter colds.

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Why cook with seasonal produce? 

These days there are a ton of ingredients that are available year-round at grocery stores. I never gave it much thought until I spent time working with Chef Anne Willan, and she emphasized the importance of using seasonal ingredients. The benefit of this practice is that you end up with ingredients at their peak. No more white tomatoes or gritty apples, eating food at its ripest gives you the best quality ingredients to cook with.

It also benefits the environment, since by eating what is in season locally means that produce doesn’t have to be shipped around the world. This isn’t to say I don’t still indulge in imported ingredients. But there has to be some give and take and I try to be mindful of it.

What is this?  

While this is in no way a complete comprehensive list of all seasonal produce, my goal is to highlight a few ingredients that shine during each season. Keep in mind that for the most part seasonality of vegetables and fruits can differ between geographical regions. To search your location and see all produce in season every month by state check out this chart here: https://www.seasonalfoodguide.org.

What’s in season in winter? 

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Celery
  • Citrus (lemons, limes, grapefruit, blood orange, key lime, mandarins)
  • Fennel
  • Kiwi
  • Kumquats
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Pomegranates
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Winter greens (Collard greens, kale, Swiss chard, rapini, mustard)
  • Winter Squash (butternut, acorn, delicta)

Recipe ideas for seasonal winter produce:

Grilled Avocado & Shrimp Salad with Winter Citrus Salad

The avocado pairs well with the bright, acidic notes of the citrus and crisp, slightly sweet licorice flavor of the fennel.

Orecchiette with Collard Greens, Sausage & Mixed Mushrooms

This seasonal dish is filled with collard greens, mushrooms, Italian sausage and Parmesan. It’s a flexible dish and can easily be made with what you have left in the fridge.

Crispy Pork Schnitzel with Citrus Salad

This recipe is a twist on the classic German recipe, where pork cutlets are thinly pounded out, then breaded in a light panko coating and fried until golden brown.

Balsamic and Caramelized Onion Braised Lamb Shanks Over White Bean & Winter Greens Risotto

Braising is one of my favorite methods of cooking. I know this is a strong statement, but not only is braising practically foolproof, but the meat is so incredibly tender that you end up with a perfect serving sauce with tons of flavor and practically no additional effort!

Mesclun Greens & Poached Chicken Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette

I feel like I should start by saying that there is bacon in this salad. If that doesn’t draw you in then the mildly bitter leaves of frisée and radicchio offset by the mild flavor of the chard and the sweet and acidic vinaigrette will.

Potato & Cheese Pierogi

Pierogi are like a polish ravioli made with sour cream-based dough and classically stuffed with a cheesy potato mixture.

Greek Lemon-Egg Chicken Soup (Avgolemono)

Homemade chicken broth is seasoned with lemon juice and thickened with eggs and served with shredded chicken and orzo for a simple yet comforting soup.

Cajun Shrimp with Cheesy Grits and Bacon Braised Collard Greens

Cajun seasoned shrimp over cheesy Southern grits topped with bacon braised collard greens make an impressive entree

Olive Oil Slow-Poached Salmon with Fennel and Lemon Arugula Herb Salad

Using this method of poaching salmon in olive oil at a low temperature in the oven will result in extremely tender and succulent fish.

Roast Chicken Legs with Braised Kale and White Beans

Roast whole chicken legs served over kale and cannellini beans with lemon for a quick healthy-ish weeknight dinner.

Lamb Sausage Pizza with Confit Tomatoes & Fennel

This tasty pizza is covered with flavorful, crumbled homemade lamb merguez sausage, fragrant confit tomatoes, shallots and garlic, shaved fennel and cheese.

Grilled BBQ Salmon and Veggie Collard Green Wraps with Ranch Yogurt Sauce

These fresh and vibrant wraps are perfect for hot summer days or picnics at the park. Collard greens make a great wrap shell because they hold up to being stuffed with ingredients and add a nice texture.

Braised Korean BBQ Beef Tacos

Braised beef short ribs in a flavorful soy sauce with kiwi to tenderize the meat served in corn tortillas with slaw inspired by my favorite Kogi tacos.

Orange Pecan Sticky Buns

This recipe gives classic sticky buns a zesty upgrade with the addition of orange and pecans.

Creamy Ricotta Polenta with Sautéed Mushrooms and Leeks

Creamy Italian polenta with ricotta served topped with a springy and flavorful mix of sautéed mushrooms, leeks and a jammy 6-minute soft-boiled egg.

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs with Celery Root Puree

Nothing is more comforting in chilly weather than a rich and hearty braise. Serve with roasted root vegetables and mashed potatoes for a complete meal.

Other Seasonal Guides

If you enjoy these recipes, I recommend checking out some of these:

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