If you find yourself making a beeline for the butternut squash and sweet potatoes at the Winter Farmer’s Market, we’re coming to your rescue! We get it: a long day where it gets dark at 4 pm makes it easy to fall into old favorites. But winter’s produce can be just as exciting as summer’s. Let’s take a step outside your culinary comfort zone and try some of those unfamiliar foods that you usually walk right past!
Winter’s bounty is so much more than potatoes and parsnips–and there are lots of delicious options you can get locally right here in New England. Let’s demystify some of the peculiar produce you’ll see this time of year, and give you a head start with some recipes to check out.
But first, three rules for winter food adventures:
- If you’ve never heard of it, try it.
- If it looks funky to you, definitely try it.
- If you can’t pronounce it, absolutely, most definitely try it right now!
The Latin word for this tomato-look-alike means “food of the gods.” Also a fruit, it originated in Japan where it’s actually the country’s national fruit. Generally deep-orange in color, the most common varieties are the Fuyu and the Hachiya. They can be eaten raw, cooked, or dried. Make it into a salsa, a savory tart, add it to stuffings and curries, or make it into a jam to serve alongside meat dishes. Check out this simple salsa recipe and grab the chips.
Credit: Great British Chefs
Celeriac (Celery Root)
This is the definition of don’t judge a book (or a vegetable) by its cover. Celery root, also known as celeriac, looks like it should be part of a Halloween display. It has a more concentrated celery flavor that is very appealing as it’s slightly creamier than the upfront vegetal taste of celery. We love making it into a puree with a little cream and butter (well, more than a little butter…), check out this recipe. Celery as we know it grows directly out of the celeriac root. They can be interchanged in most recipes, so stop leaving celeriac out of the winter veg party, it’s feeling neglected.
These funky vegetables look like something from another planet: hard, bumpy bulbs with long stems shooting out of the top that end in leaves. Sounds appealing right? Actually, they are, they’re delicious! This vegetable is a cross between a cabbage and a turnip, which is fitting as the word “kohlrabi” is German for “cabbage turnip.” It is a member of the brassica family (think broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) and it can be eaten raw or cooked. It’s very versatile. Slice it and use it as a vehicle for dip, or add it to salads or slaws for some crunch. It can also be baked, boiled, steamed, roasted, or grilled. Here are two of our favorite ways to use it: one raw, and one cooked.
Credit: Karista’s Kitchen
The Chicories: Radicchio & Belgian Endive
These leaves get a bad rap for their bitterness, but when combined with other flavors they can be a great complement to any cooked dish or salad. Many of us know endive as a conveniently sturdy leaf to scoop up a ton of dip at a party with. While this is an excellent use for it, try chopping it finely and tossing it into a salad for added crunch or get a little fancy and braise it. Radicchio can also be served raw in a salad. It stands up especially well to the sturdiness of kale, but we love it sauteed or grilled. It’s delicious when the leaves wilt and caramelize a bit. Sauteeing it with some honey and balsamic vinegar also tones down the bitterness, check it out here.
Credit: BBC Good Food
While we have the more earthy flavors of root vegetables on our minds in the cold winter months, it is also citrus season! A little zest from a lemon or an orange always brightens up a dish, but let’s stop and smell the kumquats. Really though, they are wonderfully fragrant and add a lovely layer of citrus flavor to any dish. They are native to China but are also grown in Japan and the U.S. Just bigger than an olive, they look like tiny navel oranges, and fun fact – you can eat the entire thing, skin and all. They are quite tart but also a little sweet. Use them in dressings, preserves, stuffings, or any slow cooked dish to add some zing. We love this tagine recipe that incorporates them.
Squash: Honeynut, Kabocha, Delicata
Anything you would do with a butternut or acorn squash, you can do with these unconventional squashes. Roast them, stuff them, make them into soups and purees, the oven is your oyster here.
Credit: The Martha’s Vineyard Times
If Honey I Shrunk the Kids happened to butternut squash, you would essentially get honeynut squash. This mini squash is bright orange on the inside, and while visually similar to butternut, its texture is even more velvety and its flavor even sweeter. Warm spices are a great match for honeynut and we are big fans of stuffing it!
Credit: My Healthy Dish
Also known as “Japanese pumpkin,” this squash variety looks lumpy and green and mysterious. But it tastes like a cross between a pumpkin and a sweet potato, so if you’re a fan of those this should be your go-to winter squash. It’s perfect for roasting, stuffing, and pureeing; and you don’t have to peel it (score!). Check out this sweet and spicy recipe.
Credit: Spoon & Saucer
Squash can get a bad rap for being high maintenance – difficult to peel and tough to chop. This striped squash is no fuss. It doesn’t require peeling and it’s smaller than most winter squash so it’s easy to handle. It’s flavor is sweet, creamy, and mild, so it pairs well with most spices. As with most other squash, it’s delicious when roasted so the edges caramelize slightly.
So before you steer clear of New England’s winter vegetable crops this year, take a moment to wake up your senses and give something new a try!