If you live in a cold-weather region, chances are you’ve noticed something different lately at the grocery store. Shelves are piled high with squashes and potatoes, summertime favorites like peaches and cherries are nowhere to be found and let’s not even get started on the quality of tomatoes. In short, winter has arrived, and the selection of truly good produce has dropped.
So what’s a health-conscious home cook or fruit and vegetable addict to do? Follow our tips to make the most of what's in season in your area and discover how to keep eating other seasonal favorites year-round.
Planning your menus around what’s currently in season requires a little bit of research, but your taste buds will thank you. The Internet offers tons of resources that will tell you what’s best based on your season and location, so you can make the most of what your region has to offer. This is also a great way to support local farms outside of farmers-market season.
Still craving plums and blueberries? Check out the dried fruit selection at your local grocery or health food store. Although dried fruit is a convenient, easy alternative to the regular stuff, producers often add unnecessary extra sugar during the drying process. Be sure to check the ingredient list before buying to make sure you’re loading up on actual fruit and not just glorified sugar cubes.
Ah, the wonders of refrigeration. Frozen veggies have long been available at grocery stores, allowing us to enjoy the flavor of corn and green beans anytime, albeit without the freshness factor. Frozen fruits are positively dynamite in smoothies, and you can find everything from pineapple to mangos to cherries.
We’ll take canned tomatoes over bland, out-of-season tomatoes any day, but we’ll happily steer clear of mushy canned green beans. Just beware of the sodium in canned foods.
If you’re really serious about fruits and veggies or have a thing for “Little House on the Prairie,” home canning is the way to go. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20% of households in the United States can their own produce for use in future seasons. If you’re going to can, do it by the rules — home-canned veggies can cause botulism when not made properly.