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.
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.
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.
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.