Eat fresh this winter

Eat fresh! Shop local! You’ve heard it before and there are good reasons why. Eating fresh vegetables and fruits — especially when they’re in season and locally grown — is good for your health, wallet, and community. Not only is seasonal fresh produce less expensive, more flavorful, and better for the environment, it’s a great way to support your local economy.

But eating locally and fresh in the winter? That might seem harder, since many fruits and vegetables stop growing when it gets colder. But there are plenty of others that thrive this time of year, and many options for cooking nutritious, wholesome meals even in the dead of winter. Here are some tips to help you eat fresh and healthy all winter long.

It’s winter: What’s in season?

More than you might think! For example, winter is a prime season for many root veggies, greens, and legumes. Some types of produce thrive in cooler air and soil — even below freezing — and actually taste better when harvested in winter. Others, harvested earlier in the year, keep for a long time in storage and can last all winter into early spring. And with more produce being locally grown in greenhouses these days, you may be surprised by the variety you can find in the winter months.

While seasonal produce in your area will vary by climate and growing conditions, below are some examples of winter-friendly fruits and veggies to look for at markets, farm stands, and grocery stores. Use this Seasonal Food Guide to see what’s in season near you.

Fruits: Vegitables:
• Apples
• Avocados
• Bananas
• Citrus (e.g., lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit)
• Cranberries
• Kiwifruit
• Pears
• Pineapples
• Pumpkins
• Broccoli
• Brussels sprouts
• Cabbage
• Celery
• Dark leafy greens (e.g., kale, swiss chard, collard greens)
• Microgreens and sprouts
• Peas
• Root crops (e.g., parsnips, beets, carrots, potatoes)
• Winter squash (e.g., butternut, acorn, spaghetti)

Find a winter farmers’ market

Many people assume that farmers’ markets close down for the winter, but an increasing number of them continue to operate — indoors or outdoors — long after the growing seasons have ended. Even in cold-weather states, winter farmers markets are popping up all over. To find one near you, your best bet is to look online:

  • Check the website for your favorite summer farmers’ market to see if they have a winter location.
  • Use Farm Aid’s interactive map to locate winter farmers’ markets in your area.
  • Check the National Farmers’ Market Directory for information about markets near you, including operating times, reviews, and more.

Join a CSA

Interest in CSAs, or community supported agriculture, has skyrocketed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. CSAs are like buying a subscription to a local farm. You purchase a share or membership in a farmer’s harvest, and every week or month you’ll receive a basket of local, seasonally fresh produce from that farm. If you’re interested in joining a CSA:

Be adventurous

Eating what’s in season this winter gives you a chance to get creative with new foods and recipes:

  • Embrace what’s available. Keep an open mind. If you can’t find your usual lettuce, for example, make lettuce-free salads using hearty winter fruits and vegetables like apples, pears, citrus fruits, beets, carrots, cabbage, sprouts, microgreens, and kale.
  • Go back to your roots. Root vegetables are classic cold-loving crops available in many regions during the winter. Look for recipes featuring carrots, ginger, turnips, parsnips, beets, potatoes, yams, fennel, and radishes.
  • Try different cooking methods. Be experimental with seasonal cooking and don’t be afraid to venture outside your usual dishes. You can bake bread using leftover bananas, apples, or pumpkin. Make sauces healthier by stirring in kale or adding pureed carrots. Blend oranges, grapefruit, apples, pineapple, carrots, and celery into smoothies. Make a big pot of soup filled with winter veggies, or bake them into a frittata. The opportunities are endless!
Sources:

““Healthy Winter Vegetables & the Best Ways to Enjoy Them,” Food Revolution Network (foodrevoloution.org), February 9, 2022
“What is a CSA? How to Bring Farm Fresh Food to Your Door with Produce Boxes,” Food Revolution Network (foodrevoloution.org), July 1, 2020
“Winter Seasonal Food: What Actually Grows in the Cold Months?” Eco & Beyond (ecoandbeyond.co)
“How to Eat Fresh in the Winter,” Fitday (fitday.com)
“How to Shop Winter Farmers’ Markets,” Hello Homestead (hellohomestead.com), November 23, 2018
“Winter Eating in Your Region,” Slow Food USA (slowfoodusa.com), Kerry Dunnington, June 30, 2016