Each year as January comes around, we’re hit with the same overwrought message: Eat lighter, fresher, simpler food. Our response is to fill our grocery carts with fruits and veggies, scarcely giving thought to what’s in season in our region. When we buy food that’s not grown locally this time of year, we are bringing home food that’s potentially traveled up to 2,000 miles. That’s a lot of energy spent just to bring home food for our families. Furthermore, some produce is picked so far in advance that by the time it ends up on our plates, it’s lost much of its nutritional value. So if we want to eat fresh food in the middle of winter, what are we to do? Look to the hardy veggies and fruits grown this time of year.
Add this produce to your shopping cart
The harsh, cold winter months call for sturdy vegetables such as winter squash, root vegetables and storage crops. One of the great things about winter squash like butternut, acorn, turban and spaghetti squashes is that they can keep for months without losing their nutritional profile. They’re chock full of healthful vitamin and minerals and preparation is as simple as can be. Most any squash can be peeled, diced, drizzled with olive oil and roasted in the oven for an hour at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Of course, variety is the spice of life, so be sure to vary your produce from shopping trip to shopping trip. Other fruits and vegetables plentiful this time of year are potatoes, turnips, oranges, beets and carrots, to name a few. Roasting any of these (minus the oranges, of course) produces delicious results and has the added benefit of warming your home while your veggies cook to perfection in the oven.
What about frozen foods?
Let’s face it, there comes a day when the entirety of the produce aisle is under-ripe, too soft or just plain blah. When that time comes, you have only one option: Head to the frozen food section. Because frozen foods are packaged at the peak of their nutritional value, they are the best substitute for fresh foods. Canned foods, on the other hand, are often packed in salt and preservatives to keep contents shelf stable for the long haul. If you must buy canned fruits or vegetables, go on the hunt for brands advertising low sodium fare.
Where to shop
Big grocery stores can seem oblivious to the changing of the seasons. No matter the time of year, they offer the same produce no matter if it’s in season. To ensure your food is at the height of its nutrients and that it hasn’t traveled halfway around the world for you, shop small-scale groceries and co-ops. These shops often partner with local farms to ensure fresh, seasonal produce.
The greenest option may be to sign your family up for a community supported agriculture share. CSAs allow you to invest your dollars in a local, small-scale farm. You pay upfront and then receive regular deliveries of the farm’s seasonal bumper crops. That certainly takes the guesswork out of what’s in season! Some farms will even include recipe cards with each vegetable share, making sure you know just how to coax flavor and health of out each delivery. CSA shares can be a fun way for your kids to learn about farming and healthy eating. Check with your grocer for any leads on area farms that may have a CSA program.
What do you have cooking this winter? Are these chilly months typically harder for you and your family to eat healthy and fresh food? Join in on our discussion below!