When it comes to fresh, ripe produce, our minds often wander to the vibrant harvests of spring and summer. While the winter months may be known for grey skies and frosty temperatures, many of our favorite fruits and veggies reach peak freshness in the wintertime. Discover the benefits of seasonal produce and learn which fruits and veggies are best suited for cold-weather cooking with our guide to winter produce.
Intro to Seasonal Produce
Ever wonder what it means for produce to be in season? When we look at fruits and vegetables as staple ingredients, it’s easy to forget that they’re plants, harvested depending on their growth cycles. Simply put, when produce is in season, it’s at its peak freshness in your region. The timeframe when a particular fruit or vegetable is harvested will depend on several factors, including region, climate and the crop’s natural growing cycle. There are many benefits to shopping fresh, seasonal produce. When you shop in-season produce you get:
- Better Flavor: Seasonal produce ripens naturally before being harvested. This means it’s often more flavorful than out-of-season produce.
- Higher Nutritional Content: The longer produce sits after being harvested, the more nutrients are lost. Importing produce means that nutrients are often lost in transit. Since in-season produce is grown locally and harvested at peak freshness, it offers more nutritional benefits.
- Lower Prices: In-season produce doesn't have to be transported over long distances, stored for extended periods of time or subjected to costly preservation methods. Additionally, in-season produce is locally abundant, driving prices down further. All these factors contribute to a lower price point for in-season produce.
- Increased Sustainability: Since in-season produce is grown locally, it travels a shorter distance and spends less time in the refrigerator. This makes in-season produce more environmentally sustainable than imported produce.
Many fruits are fresh, ripe and abundant during the winter months. Try these juicy winter fruits for their refreshing taste and health benefits:
Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits and clementines are a delightful winter treat in North America, with many of them grown in warm regions of California, Florida and Texas during the winter season.
Benefits: Oranges, grapefruits and clementines are packed with vitamin C, which can help boost your immune system during the cold and flu season.
Shopping Tips: To select the freshest citrus fruit, look for those that are heavy for their size, have bright and vibrant skin, and feel firm to the touch. Avoid fruits with soft spots or blemishes.
Apples are a classic winter fruit grown in various regions across North America, including Washington, New York and Michigan.
Benefits: Apples are a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C, aiding in digestion and immune support during the colder months. They’re perfect for an after-feast snack or better-for-you dessert.
Shopping Tips: Pick smooth apples free of bruises. A fresh apple should feel firm and heavy for its size.
Pears are in season during the winter months and often grown in states like Oregon and Washington.
Benefits: Pears contain fiber, vitamins and antioxidants that support heart health and overall well-being in winter.
Shopping Tips: To pick the best pears, gently press near the stem. If it yields slightly, it's ripe. Overly soft pears may be overripe, but can be a good choice for immediate use, or for use in recipes that call for cooking or freezing the pears.
Pomegranates are in season in the wintertime, often grown in California and Arizona. They’re known for their vibrant, jewel-like seeds and they’re filled with antioxidants. Throughout history, pomegranates have been a celebratory staple in wintertime feasts, seen as a symbol of rebirth and new beginnings.
Benefits: Pomegranate seeds can add a burst of flavor and nutrition to your winter meals, and they’re rich in vitamin C and antioxidants.
Shopping Tips: Choose heavy pomegranates with unblemished skin and a deep color. Cracks or soft spots mean the fruit is overripe.
Kiwi is a tropical winter fruit with a fuzzy brown exterior and green or golden flesh.
Benefits: Kiwis are rich in vitamin C, vitamin K and dietary fiber, making them a great choice to support your digestive and immune systems during the months of feasting and cold weather.
Shopping Tips: Look for kiwis with firm flesh when gently squeezed. Avoid kiwis that are too soft or have wrinkled skin.
Native to North America, cranberries are a winter kitchen staple. They’re primarily grown in the northern United States and Canada.
Benefits: These tart berries are high in vitamin C and antioxidants, making them excellent for immune health during the colder months.
Shopping Tips: Look for firm, plump berries with a deep red color, and avoid those that are shriveled or discolored.
Grapes are available year-round, but they reach peak freshness in North America from late summer through winter. They’re grown in various states, with California being the most well-known.
Benefits: Grapes are a convenient and healthy snack, providing hydration and antioxidants to support overall health during winter.
Shopping Tips: Select grapes that are firmly attached to the stem, plump, and free from wrinkles or mold. Remember to cut them lengthwise if serving to young children.
Persimmons are a unique winter fruit grown in states like California and Florida. They're known for their sweet and slightly spicy flavor.
Benefits: Persimmons are a good source of vitamin A and dietary fiber, making them a nutritious choice for the colder months.
Shopping Tips: Choose persimmons with smooth, unblemished skin and a vibrant orange color. They should yield slightly when pressed.
Winter vegetables are a nutritious and essential part of the seasonal diet. These veggies thrive in cooler climates, and they’re readily available during the winter months in North America. They’re also packed with health benefits.
Brussels sprouts are a cool-weather favorite, typically grown in regions like California and the Pacific Northwest during the winter.
Benefits: These mini cabbages are rich in vitamins C and K and provide essential nutrients to boost your immune system and support bone health.
Shopping Tips: Look for firm, compact sprouts with vibrant green color. Smaller sprouts tend to be sweeter and more tender.
Carrots are a versatile root vegetable grown in various parts of the United States throughout the winter.
Benefits: Carrots are packed with beta-carotene, an antioxidant that supports vision and overall immunity.
Shopping Tips: Choose carrots with smooth skin, a vibrant orange color and no signs of wilting or blemishes.
Winter squash varieties like butternut, acorn and kabocha are grown in the late summer and harvested for winter consumption.
Benefits: These hearty vegetables are high in vitamins A and C, providing a nutrient boost to your winter diet.
Shopping Tips: Select squash that feels heavy for its size, with unblemished skin and a firm texture. A dull, matte (not shiny) skin is a sign of ripeness.
Sweet potatoes are a staple in colder months, and they’re grown in various regions of the United States.
Benefits: Rich in fiber and vitamins A and C, sweet potatoes provide energy and immune support during winter.
Shopping Tips: Look for sweet potatoes that are firm, smooth-skinned and free from bruises or soft spots.
Kale is a hardy, leafy green that thrives in cooler temperatures, making it widely available during the winter months.
Benefits: Kale is a nutritional powerhouse, packed with vitamins K, A and C as well as fiber, offering a boost to your overall health.
Shopping Tips: Choose kale with crisp, deeply colored leaves. Smaller leaves tend to be more tender and less bitter.
Broccoli is a cool-weather crop, and it’s often grown in the winter months in regions with milder winters.
Benefits: Broccoli is a great source of vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants, helping to strengthen your immune system.
Shopping Tips: Select broccoli with tightly closed, dark green florets and firm stems. Avoid yellowing or wilted florets.
Cabbage is a traditional winter vegetable that can withstand cold temperatures, and it’s grown in various North American regions.
Benefits: Cabbage is rich in vitamin K and fiber, promoting healthy digestion and bone health.
Shopping Tips: Choose dense cabbage heads with crisp, unblemished leaves.