Think eating locally needs to stop once winter comes? Not so! Cold weather crops, the use of hoop houses and other methods that extend the natural growing season, and old-fashioned storage vegetables like cabbages and potatoes all mean that there are plenty of winter fruits and vegetables to choose from in most of the country.
Look for the winter fruits and vegetables below at farmers markets and in produce departments for the best flavor (and greatest value) in season.
BEETS are in season in temperate climates fall through spring, and available from storage most of the year everywhere else. Fresh beets are often sold with their greens still attached.
BELGIAN ENDIVE are mostly “forced” to grow in artificial conditions, and are thus available year-round. Their traditional season (when grown in fields and covered with sand to keep out the light) is late fall and winter. They are delicious braised or in salads.
BROCCOLI, like many cruciferous vegetables, can be grown year-round in temperate climates so we’ve forgotten it even has a season. But, like the rest of its family, it tastes best (that is, more sweet, less bitter and sharp) when harvested in the cooler temperatures of fall in most climates.
BRUSSELS SPROUTS grow on a stalk, and if you see them for sale that way snap them up – they’ll last quite a bit longer than once they’re cut.
CABBAGE is bright and crisp when raw and mellows and sweetens the longer it’s cooked. The cooler the weather in grows in, the sweeter it tends to taste (this effect is called “frost kissed”).
CARROTS are available from winter storage from local growers in many areas, and fresh in warmer and temperate regions.
CAULIFLOWER may be grown, harvested, and sold year-round, but it is by nature a cool weather crop and at its best in fall and winter and into early spring.
CLEMENTINES are small, sweet orange available from December through the winter.
CURLY ENDIVE/FRISÉE is a chicory at its best in fall and winter.
ESCAROLE is another bitter chicory in season fall and winter.
FENNEL has a natural season from fall through early spring. Like most cool weather crops, the plant bolts and turns bitter in warmer weather.
HORSERADISH is at its best in fall and winter. Like so many other root vegetables, however, it stores well and is often available in decent shape well into spring.
KALE is like all hearty cooking greens – cooler weather keeps it sweet.
LEEKS more than about 1 1/2 inches wide tend to have tough inner cores. The top green leaves should look fresh – avoid leeks with wilted tops.
LEMONS AND MEYER LEMONS tend to be at their best winter and spring.
MANDARINS are sweet and juicy in winter.
ORANGES add sunny brightness to winter eating.
PARSNIPS look like white carrots and have a great nutty flavor. Look for thinner parsnips, since fatter ones tend to have a thick, woody core you need to cut out.
RADISHES, yes, radishes—at least the large varieties are in season in winter.
RUTABAGAS also known as “yellow turnips” and “Swedes” are a sweet, nutty root vegetables perfect in stews, roasted, or mashed with plenty of butter.
SWEET POTATOES are often sold as “yams.” They store very well and so are available from local sources year-round in warmer areas and otherwise from late summer through winter.
TANGERINES are oranges’ sweeter, more honeyed cousins. As with all citrus fruit, look for specimens that feel heavy for their size.
TURNIPS have a bad rap they don’t deserve. Fresh turnips have a sharp but bright and sweet flavor. Look for turnips that feel heavy for their size.
WINTER SQUASH of all sorts comes into season in early fall and usually last well into winter.