Winter Produce Blues
Is it produce season yet? No seriously. I can’t be the only one. Do you feel like you look at the same five veggies every time you go to the store? I get so burnt out on the produce available during the non growing seasons. I find myself growing tired of the same old sides by this time of year. I am ready for the light crunch of fresh and crispy veggies. I long for sweet fruit and the varieties of produce that are available in the warmer months.
How do you beat the winter produce blues? How do you mix it up and keep it interesting at mealtime? For me, it kind of happened on accident. I had a pretty basic diet. You know, the things we are all familiar with. Broccoli and Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, the occasional Green Beans, when they are available and reasonable quality, you get the idea. We rarely eat out, the vast majority of our meals are homemade. It can get so old trying to find new ways to cook the same things over and over. But I am always looking for a deal, so when I heard about a local produce basket that I could purchase for a great price, I went for it. These baskets often had things in them I had never heard of or seen before. I couldn’t just throw it out, so I started searching. Finding ways to use some of these “alternative” produce that I now needed to learn how to enjoy. I must not be the only one, so I thought I would share some of my discoveries with you.
An obvious choice, squash. There are an endless variety of winter squash available. It seems, at least where I live, that most groceries carry two or three standard kinds of squash; spaghetti, butternut, and acorn, pretty much all the time. But there are so many different varieties worth trying. We have a couple local stores that up their game around the holidays, and we are able to find some varieties of winter squash that aren’t always available. Delicata’s are my favorite. We make delicata squash fries out of them. Turban squash is a close runner up, with superb flavor and creamy flesh. I also really enjoy a nice red Kuri. We are always on the lookout for new squash to try. The internet has become a wealth of information, and there are plenty of recipes, both sweet and savory, to be found. Don’t overlook that squash display. Those lumpy, funny looking, oddly shaped gourds offer a wealth of variety during this long, fresh vegetable scarce season.
Root Vegetables have also become a staple at our table. They keep for long periods of time, much like winter squash, and most of them grow best in cool seasons. This makes them some of the more widely available veggies in the long months of winter. Potatoes and carrots come to mind as the obvious root vegetables. We don’t eat too many potatoes anymore. They really just make us both feel like crap honestly. Nightshades. Inflammatory buggers! But there are many fabulous alternatives to potatoes. Sweet potatos are a great alternative. Roasted root veggies are a staple in our home, because there are so many ways to switch it up. Root veggies available include things you might not think of, like beets, rutabagas, parsnips and turnips. I often will roast a combination of any variety of root veggies with a little olive oil and seasoning as a side dish. Toss some rainbow carrots, beets, and rutabagas (all sliced, diced and ready to cook of course) together and add some variety to your meal.
Craving something crispy and fresh? Kohlrabi has become my go to veggie when I need something fresh and crispy. We peel them, slice them, sprinkle a little salt and pepper, and just gobble them up. They are available year round, I don’t have any trouble finding them during the winter months.
There are lots of veggies available, we just have to be willing to try new things. There are so many great recipes available online, and tons fabulous cookbooks available too, if you are not so inclined to seek recipes online.
What are some of your favorite less common veggies to eat? Do you have a favorite recipe? I am always looking for new ways to spruce up meal time and keep it colorful. I challenge you to look around next time you are in the produce section. Find something new and interesting that you have never tried before, and give it a shot. It’s pretty amazing some of the options that are available that it just never occurs to us to try until someone points it out to us. I look forward to hearing your ideas for beating the winter produce blues.