Beat the Winter Culinary Blues with Fresh Produce

The rapid descent into dark winter leaves us tired and yearning for the blueberry infused days of summer. With the sun seemingly setting after lunch, how can we get inspired to move beyond dreary pot roast and cabbage? Although our most fresh options are more limited than the summer and fall, we still have a myriad of choices up for consideration to beat the winter blues.


Artichokes

These funky, party favorites pack a huge health punch--and are just plain fun to eat.  While artichokes taste great in creamy dips and casseroles, they are equally enjoyable steamed with a simple dip.  If you're intimidated selecting artichokes from the grocery store, join the club!  Pick varieties that are heavy with a healthy green color.  Avoid any artichokes that are brown or rubbery.  Ocean Mist Farms recommends trying varieties that have white bursts, snow-kissed, as they (supposedly) have a richer flavor and are more tender.  Check out this video for more advice on how to prepare an artichoke for boiling.

Best Artichoke Recipes: The Artichoke Advisory Board has superb recipes for artichoke dips, sautés, grills, casseroles, and Benedict preparations.

Currants

These small, cranberry-esque fruits aren't exactly common fare.  They bring to mind scones and tea from across the Pond and we here don't know what to do with them.  Akin to the gooseberry, currants grow in clusters on a bush and show a deep red color when ripe.  Since they flourish fairly easily in poor soil, it's not hard to harvest a hearty crop each winter.  Currants aren't as sweet as other berries, but here we are in the deep cold months with a fresh fruit option--no complaints here.

Best Currant Recipes: Red Currant Jam, Chocolate Currant Cake.

Grapefruit

The best grapefruits are heavy for their size and even in color.  While many stores offer these giant balls of citrus in a value bag, I'd lean toward selecting my own.  As many as half of the bag deals are substandard.  Grapefruit store really well for up to a week on the counter or three weeks in the fridge.  I have fond memories of Grandma slicing a half for me and sprinkling some sugar on top.  She pulled out knife-spoons reserved especially for the occasion and we took great care to partition each segment with care.  But aside from the obvious there are other ways to skin and eat a grapefruit.

Best Grapefruit Recipes: Grapefruit vinaigrette, Monkfish with Grapefruit, Grapefruit Juices.

Kale

Our Spartan winter produce must not only shine during these dark months but also overcome unfortunate taxonomy--Kale definitely tops the list for shoppers leery of oddly-named veggies.  Before you write it off, this popular Irish cabbage has a surprisingly rich taste when selected and prepared properly.  It's a great source of Vitamins A and C as well as potassium.  You'll find it near the lettuce and cabbage bins.  As with it's neighbors, pick bunches that are dark green and have no brown or yellow patches.  Store for 2-5 days in the refrigerator.

Best Kale Recipes: Sautéed Kale, Sausage Kale Soup, Acorn Squash and Kale over Penne.

Blood Oranges

Orange you glad it's winter again?  Some of the best-tasting oranges are ripe for the picking.  Similar to the grapefruit, look for varieties that are smooth and even in color, dense in weight.  Oranges will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.  The tastiest type of orange right now is the blood orange.  Rich in antioxidants, these naturally sweet treats also serve as a great source of fiber, which lowers cholesterol.  

Best Blood Orange Recipe: Blood Orange Sangria.

Snow Peas

The Nordics believed that Thor sent peas to Earth as a punishment for humans--he used them to fill up and ruin every water well.  But some peas landed on fertile ground, so people harvested and dedicated them to Thor.  While not exactly a glamorous career start, snow peas are super tasty, especially with Chinese cooking.  They are eaten with the shell and make great additions to veggie trays.

Best Snow Peas Recipes: Shrimp and Snow Pea Salad, Marinated Mushrooms with Snow Peas.

Tangerines

This petite fruit originated in Tangiers before being harvested in Europe.  It is exceptionally sweet and easy to eat.  The best varieties are slightly soft to allow for easy peeling--avoid any fruit with a dull color or rock-hard feel.  At just 50 calories for a medium sized fruit, tangerines are an excellent snack high in vitamin C.

Best Tangerine Recipes: Tangerine Fondue, Red Cooked Tangerine Chicken, Tangerine Mimosa.


Turnips 

While it's physically possible to eat a turnip raw, I wouldn't recommend it unless you're in dire straights.  They can quickly turn bitter, so store in an enclosed plastic bag and eat within three day of purchasing.  Try to incorporate a hint of sweet into your turnip recipes to steer away from its naturally bitter taste.  

Best Turnip Recipe: Maple Glazed Turnips, Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Turnips.

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