With a week of weather dipping into sub-zero temperatures, it’s hard to think of fresh vegetables that aren’t rock solid. But thanks to Mother Nature, innovation, modern technology and lots of hard work, farmers can provide customers with fresh seasonal vegetables year-round – the key word here being seasonal.
Let’s look at some of the fresh vegetables you’ll be encountering in the coming weeks and explore easy and delicious ways to prepare them.
Just as their name implies, these thick-skinned, hard fleshed cucurbits come in a multitude of shapes, sizes and colors. Varieties of butternut and acorn squash are the most common, and are small enough to carry. Some, such as Hubbard, can grow to be as much as fifty pounds!
These long keeping vegetables are high in vitamins A and C. They can be prepared as both savory and sweet – think pie (yes, pumpkins are winter squash), cubed and roasted, pureed for a hearty soup, mashed and buttered, and my favorite, simply cut in half, stuffed with sausage and baked.
Roots are the underground rock stars of winter. Carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas and celeriac will all be staples at winter markets. Farmers can keep them safe from the elements as they remain in the ground waiting to be picked for optimum freshness by cultivating plants in high tunnels with lots of mulch for insulation, and floating row covers for added warmth on the coldest nights.
Root vegetables can be eaten raw or cooked. They are also excellent for fermenting. A bonus – the ones that sell with their tops offer additional greens that can be cooked and eaten.
Chard, collard and kale abound this time of year. Leafy cousins in the cabbage family, some varieties can withstand freezing temperature, even becoming sweeter in taste after exposure to frost. Winter greens are the super food of the season. High in vitamin K which is necessary for proper blood coagulation and binding calcium into bones, nutritionists recommend eating one cup a day for health benefits.
Winter greens can be steamed, sautéed, used in soups, baked and my favorite, braised in cider.
This list goes on…cabbages, radishes, kohlrabi, spinach, mustard greens, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, onions, leeks. There’s no excuse for not eating fresh and local during the winter months.
Try out this simple recipe with ingredients from the market.
Portuguese Sausage Kale Soup
- 1 pound sausage (preferably spicy)
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 quarts stock
- 1 bunch fresh kale, chopped
- 3 medium potatoes, cubed
- 2 cups red or pink beans (soak first)
Brown sausage, onions and garlic in olive oil. Add stock and bring to a simmer. Add vinegar, potatoes, kale and beans. Continue to simmer for 30 minutes.