We might be in the depths of winter and dreaming of warmer days but it’s not all doom and gloom. This frosty season brings with it a glut of hearty fruits and vegetables that are best eaten now. We’ve rounded up some of our favourite winter produce plus a few ideas to tempt you and your family to enjoy the very best of the season.
Why eat seasonally?
It tastes better: in-season produce has grown in its preferred conditions, has travelled less and will be at its freshest. Also keep in mind that fruit and veg flown in from afar is often picked weeks in advance and before it’s fully ripe.
It’s cheaper: Eliminating the specialised processes to grow out of season produce or have it transported from the other side of the world cuts costs, with savings passed on to the consumer.
It’s better for the environment: the thousands of miles saved on transporting produce from across the world to our shelves reduces its carbon footprint.
It supports your local community: visiting your weekly farmer’s market or independent grocer is a great way to support local, small businesses in an ever-growing world of multi-national corporations.
It helps you connect to nature: keeping up to date with seasonal produce helps you connect with nature’s cycles and boost your mental and physical wellbeing.
It keeps things interesting: if you’re stuck in a cooking rut, eating with the seasons helps you re-discover forgotten favourites or discover something completely new to base a dish around.
Often shunned in childhood and later pleasantly rediscovered in adulthood, beetroot makes a sweet, earthy and satisfying addition to warm and cold salads. They also boast fantastic nutritional value, rich in folic acid, fibre and potassium. To prepare, forget the 70s style pickled beetroot in jars and opt for fresh – shave it raw straight into salads or slow roast it in a nutty oil with a sprinkle of feta to finish off.
Ok, hear us out – this (unfairly!) unpopular vegetable isn’t just for Christmas. In fact, it makes a filling, economical and nutritious addition to your diet, and with enough love and care, can really be delicious. Low in calories and high in nutrients, including iron, manganese, vitamin A and B, these mini cabbages deserve a little more post-Christmas attention. Roast with olive oil, garlic and parmesan for a delicious side dish.
Belonging to same family as onions, garlic and shallots, leeks have a milder and often sweeter flavour, making them ideal for little ones. When cooked down, they have an almost creamy texture – try adding them to a batch of white pasta sauce for extra heartiness and texture or combine them with leftover mash, cheese and some fish to create toddler-pleasing fishcakes. Plus, a 100g serving of leeks provides you with a third of your daily requirement of Vitamin A and 20% of Vitamin C.
Although usually used in sweet dishes, rhubarb is actually a vegetable. We wouldn’t recommend eating it raw as its very sour – and definitely don’t eat the poisonous leaves – but married with sugar and lots of warming spices, it makes the ultimate winter pudding. Roast and puree to make a rhubarb fool and serve with custard and crushed ginger biscuits, or cook it down with apples and cinnamon and turn it into a moreish crumble. Rhubarb is rich in Vitamin K1 and fibre, so there’s no need to feel guilty about the calories!
Often overlooked perhaps because of its less-than-beautiful appearance, celeriac is deceptively easy to prepare and big in flavour. Once you get through the tough skin, chop it into chunks or chips for roasting, or boil it to make mash – it makes a lighter yet equally as creamy alternative to mashed potatoes. Celeriac is packed with vitamins and minerals – to retain even more goodness that can be lost to cooking, try it raw in the form of remoulade, a French salad dish similar to coleslaw.
Pears make a sweet, portable and nutritious snack ideal for lunch boxes or popping into your handbag. They’re an excellent source of fibre and antioxidants – just make sure you eat the peel too as that’s where most of the nutrients are. Pears are often picked when a little under-ripe so you might need to let them sit in the fruit bowl for a couple of days. If you’re looking to make a pear pudding, try poaching and serving with ice cream. Easy yet impressive!