Spring, summer, fall, or winter brings a fresh season of new organic vegetables and fruits, and farmer’s markets are just now starting to display a variety of colorful and hardy winter goodies. Among the most popular and savory winter fruits and vegetables are blood oranges, kale, lemons and limes, parsnips, pears, pomegranates, quinces, turnips, and winter squash. Here’s the run down on each.
Blood Orangesare a nummy fruit with an intense, sweet citrus flavor. I have my own little tree and it’s still too immature to produce fruit, but when it does, I know I won’t quit eating this luscious crimson fruit. Additionally, these oranges are packed with vitamin C, and vitamin C stimulates the immune system, helps wounds heal, and helps maintain healthy blood vessels.
Kale is a nutritional powerhouse when it comes to vegetables. It’s a cabbage and like other cabbages, it helps to prevent cancer. It’s also full of iron, calcium, and vitamins A, C, and K. In addition, it contains beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. When picking out kale look for crisp, tender leaves that are bright in color, and then use it in salads or lightly steam it and add olive oil to it.
Lemons and Limes have been used since early times, and they have the same beneficial effects as blood oranges. However, lemons are known for their folk remedy properties. Besides being used on sore throats, lemons help digestion, bile production, and the liver. Limes, like lemons, also have beneficial properties. In fact, you’ve probably heard the story about British sailors dying in the 1700s from scurvy before a Scottish naval doctor discovered the sailors needed citrus and sent them to sea with limes, earning them they nickname “limeys.” Lemons and limes have more than medicinal properties. They’re extremely tasty, and I use them on many things I eat. I cut them in halves or quarters and use them to jazz up bland dishes, on my salad, and in my mineral water.
Parsnips are a starchy root vegetable related to the carrot and high in carbohydrates. Parsnips resemble carrots in shape but are paler and much more flavorful. They are used to help thicken foods because of their starchiness, and they can be boiled, roasted, or used in soups, stews, and casseroles. I like their flavor and often add them to mash potatoes to give my potatoes an extra zing. Parsnips are a good source of potassium, folic acid, copper, manganese, and fiber. They are also rich in vitamins B5, B6, and C.
Pears are available year round, but at winter time Bartlett’s are one of the most readily-available pears. They come in red or yellow and can be found August through December. Bartlett pears are juicy, aromatic and great in salads or just eaten alone. Always pick pears that are free of bruises or spots, and if you need to ripen a green pear put it in a dark spot for a day a two. Pears contain a number of B vitamins, vitamin C and E, copper, magnesium, phosphorous, and calcium.
Pomegranates are a juicy fruit, and their juice can dye everything if you’re not careful. The juicy seeds are embedded inside a spongy white membrane covered by a leathery, red skin. The seeds can be difficult to remove, but if you read FYI Beauty Secrets – Pomegranates, it gives an easy way to remove the seeds. If you’ve never tried a pomegranate it’s well worth the effort needed to get to the seeds, and pick a big one because they’re supposedly the juiciest. Pomegranates have vitamins A, C, and E, as well as folic acid. They are also chocked full of antioxidants and phytochemical compounds, which helps keep LDL “bad” cholesterol down, lowers blood pressure, prevents blood platelets from clustering and clumping together, and reduces atherosclerosis plaque deposits.
Quinces are related to pears and apples and look like a cross between them. They’re a common fruit used in Greek, Moroccan, and Persian cuisine, and they are highly aromatic. This fruit is not eaten raw as it is astringent, but when it’s cooked it develops a delicate flavor. Quinces are ideal for poaching or stewing and can be are used in meat dishes, pastries, or jellies. They’re also a good source of Vitamin A, iron, and fiber.
Turnips and turnips greens are low in fat, low in cholesterol, and high in fiber. Turnips are a common root vegetable and combined with their greens, they’re great for bone health because of their high calcium value and low phosphorus value. They’re also great for rheumatoid arthritis because they help the body to produce and maintain healthy membranes, and they prevent free radicals from exacerbating joint damage. Turnips are also high in vitamin A, C, and K, and their lutein and zeaxanthin helps protect you against cataracts and macular degeneration. Moreover, turnips are known for their cancer-fighting abilities. You can eat turnips raw, which helps with digestion, or you can boil or roast turnips. If you want a hearty wintry soup, the turnip is one of the best vegetables to add.
Winter Squash have hard outer shells and come in a variety of shapes, including round, elongated and pear-shaped. Winter squash is available in acorn, banana, butternut, hubbard, kabocha, spaghetti, and turban squash. You can bake or steam them, and their flavors range from sweet to nutty to peppery. Winter squash are prone to decay, so when you pick one make sure it is heavy for its size and has a dull hard rind and no blemishes. The ideal temperature to store squash is between 50-60°F. You also need to make sure they’re stored in a dark place and cooked within a month to six weeks. Squash is an excellent source of vitamin A. It is also rich in vitamin C, potassium, and manganese, as well as a good source of copper, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, niacin, thiamine, and vitamin B5 and B6.
As the weather gets cold, stay warm by enjoying and eating these great winter goodies. They’ll not only keep you warm but also help you stay healthy. Moreover, if you buy these fruits and vegetables at your local organics farmer’s market, you’ll enjoy fresh foods packed with more vitamins and minerals than the traditional ones, and they’ll also be pesticide-free.