Eating with the seasons in spring and summer is a snap: One visit to your neighborhood farmers market is like a beautiful, rainbow-tinged dream. Winter is … a different story. In the depths of winter, it’s easy to accidentally stop incorporating as much fresh produce into your meals.
But just because there aren’t bushels of tomatoes and peaches doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of delicious, seasonal produce in January. In fact, you certainly can eat seasonally and fresh, even at the very frozen peak of winter. Load up on these ingredients for colorful, nutrient-dense meals that will keep you going until the thaw!
In most places, cabbage harvest starts in December. That means that winter cabbages are some of the freshest, sweetest you’ll have all year. And while cabbage may not have the same exciting foodie reputation as its cruciferous cousins (lookin’ at you, cauliflower), it really should!
Cabbage is versatile, inexpensive, and indisputably healthy. Check it out:
- There is a cabbage for every mood. Standard green cabbage is perfect for braises and soups; purple cabbage is a slaw-star; savoy and Napa cabbage, with their slightly softer texture, are standouts in salads and stir-fries. You can even use cabbage leaves to dip in hummus or dressing in place of chips!
- Cabbage is a study in textures; raw, it is delightfully crunchy; cooked hard or fried, it turns crispy; and braised slow and low, it becomes silky smooth. Fermented, in kimchi and sauerkraut, cabbage takes on a pleasantly funky profile.
- This humble veg is a nutritional powerhouse! It’s low in calories and fat, full of fiber, and loaded with vitamins and minerals, like potassium and vitamin K.
True, you can find these richly-hued root vegetables all year round. But winter is prime time for beets, especially baby beets, which have more concentrated sweetness than their grown-up counterparts. Beets are amazing for a bunch of reasons (pun intended 😉):
- There are so many kinds of beets! Red beets, with a vibrant garnet color and earthy flavor; golden beets, with a more mellow taste (that won’t stain your cutting board); Chioggia, AKA candy-stripe beets, with an incredible red and white striated pattern; and white beets, with a creamier, gentler flavor.
- Beets come with a salad attached! Those greens atop the bunch can be washed and dried, then eaten raw or cooked. They have a sharp, peppery flavor, reminiscent of arugula.
- There are so many things you can do with beets. Roast them for salads, pasta dishes, and health bowls; puree them into sauces or dips; shave them raw on a mandolin; marinate or pickle them; or juice them!
- Beets are positively packed with nutrition; they’re high in fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, and folate. They’re also a good source of Betanin, an antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory natural plant pigment.
Onions, Shallots & Leeks
There is no better way to add a dose of fragrant, umami flavor to dishes than with winter-friendly alliums. We’re talking onions, shallots, and leeks!
Fall/winter onions tend to be globe shaped (versus the flatter spring/summer varieties), with darker colored papery skins and less water concentration, which helps them keep in storage for longer.
All the allium info you need:
- Flavor-wise, onions can range from sweet and mild to pungent and almost spicy.
- Lots of recipes start by sauteing onions and garlic, but they’re fantastic as a featured ingredient! Try tiny cippolini onions in a cheesy pasta bake; add raw red onions to sandwiches, tacos, or pasta salad for a pungent bite; or caramelize white or yellow onions for the ultimate savory ingredient.
- Leeks have a mild flavor and are incredible in soups and creamy pasta dishes.
- Shallots feature a delicate, sweet flavor and are a key aromatic ingredient in many sauces and dressings.
- Nutrition-wise, most alliums are low in calories and fat, and high in fiber, vitamin C, folate, potassium, and a number of antioxidants.
Bonus: Bitter Greens
Sorry spring mix, but winter is time for bitter greens! These pungent, leafy veggies, like mustard greens, radicchio, escarole, and chicory, bring crunch and color to the party. Add their bracing, bitter flavor to all kinds of dishes, especially grain salads, pastas, egg dishes and omelets, and stews and soups.
ZENB pasta (made from 100% amazing, 100% delicious yellow peas), is fantastic with winter veggies (and helps you squeeze in another serving of plants into your meals!). For some hearty, nourishing cold weather meals, try Stovetop ZENB Penne with Winter Vegetables, Beet, Citrus & Pistachio ZENB Penne, and Pumpkin, Sage & Pecan Agile.
For more cooking inspo, including recipe roundups, how-to’s, and quick meal hacks, check out the ZENB Blog! And for some comforting, hearty recipes to warm up with on a winter evening, dive into our recipe collection. For more from the ZENB world, follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.