What's in Season? How to Incorporate Winter Vegetables into Your Dinner Menu


Just because you’re wrapped up in winter clothes doesn’t mean you have to lose the pleasure of fresh produce during those colder months. If you’re looking to bring seasonal vegetables to the dinner table, take a trip to your local farmers’ markets and produce carrots-and-snow-peasaisles to take a tally of what vegetables are in stock. Some of these winter vegetables come at the greatest values of the year, and they taste the best during their bountiful cold season.

Not every vitamin-rich veggie closes up shop after the warm weather dies down. There are many winter-friendly vegetables out there to choose from.

  • Cruciferous Vegetables – Many cruciferous vegetables can be grown during any season if located in temperate climates. But these veggies taste best when harvested in the fall months. Those vegetables in the cruciferous family include: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnip, rutabaga, and radishes.
  • Root Vegetables – Although not as exciting or alluring as many spring vegetables, root vegetables are another cold season favorite. Available from local winter storage or grown during the cooler months, root vegetables are a great way to continue eating well throughout the season. Carrots, celery, and parsnips can all be found outside of the spring and summer months.
  • Potatoes, Squash, and Onion – Potatoes and onions can be stored for long amounts of time, making them an excellent source of vegetables during colder months. Also, aptly named winter squashes are grown in the winter months, and can be found fresh for use in soups and stews.
  • Beets, Belgian Endive, Cardoons, Celeriac, Chicory, and Treviso – These lesser-known vegetables are a fun way to experiment in the kitchen. Check your produce aisle for these infrequent offerings. Try throwing them into your daily meals in new and exciting ways, and use them as a reason to try out new cookbook recipes.

Just because many of the produce markets are low on crops doesn’t mean you have to stop incorporating vegetables into your meals. And although you can’t find them at the restaurants, it doesn’t mean they are not around or that you can’t use them to create a satisfying meal.

There are plenty of wonderful ways to warm up your winters. From great winter soups to stews and slaws, winter root vegetables make the perfect foundation for a great meal. Keep the following meals in mind next time you’re at the grocery store:

  • Butternut and ham bisque – Make this soup to incorporate a sweet winter squash and a salty kick for a welcoming dinner delight. Made with onion, rosemary, garlic, potatoes, squash and ham, this bisque incorporates winter flavors into a warm winter dish.
  • Lentils with wine-glazed winter vegetables – This warm recipe comes with a dramatic appearance and can include carrot, parsnip, onion, and celery root glazed with tomato paste. Mixed together and then added to a comforting lentil base, this dish is a snowy weather show-stopper.
  • Roasted parsnips – A great side dish to pork, roasted parsnips that are caramelized and bathed in balsamic vinegar and brown sugar can be combined to make a sweet and satisfying side for meat dishes.
  • Honey roasted root vegetables – Roast lively winter vegetables with honey to bring out the natural sugars of caramelized vegetables and help bring variety to starchy winter sides.
  • Brussels Sprout Gratin – Make a creamy cheese and bacon sauce to bring a welcoming twist to this usually dull vegetable.
  • Snow Pea and Cabbage Salad – Think outside the box with a slaw and snow pea salad. Throw in some radishes and broccoli for color and flavor, and bring the cabbage crunch to the dinner table.
  • Kale Chips – Tired of the old greasy potato chip? Throw some olive oil and salt on kale leaves and bake them into a crispy, healthy, vitamin-packed cold weather snack.

Blustery winter days are no reason to stay out of the produce aisle. Many vegetables can be stored and sold throughout colder months, and many others peak in the off-season. If you live in a temperate climate, keep an eye on your produce stand for picks of the season and bring home vegetables that are perfect for soups, stews, casserole, and side dishes to spruce up your cold weather suppers. Many year-round vegetables peak in flavor during the colder months, so don’t be afraid to sample the produce on display at your local store.

photo courtesy woodleywonderworks