Guest Column

Enjoy fresh winter produce

By Vicki Hayman
Posted 12/3/21

Winter will soon officially begin, and we have still have months until spring. Just because it’s winter in Wyoming, doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy fresh, seasonal produce grown other …

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Guest Column

Enjoy fresh winter produce


Winter will soon officially begin, and we have still have months until spring. Just because it’s winter in Wyoming, doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy fresh, seasonal produce grown other places. 

What does “seasonal” mean? Every vegetable and fruit has its season — a season when it is ripe and plentiful, when it tastes the best, and costs the least.

So what is in season in January?

When it comes to fruit, January is the season for citrus! Thanks to growers in the southwestern and southeastern United States, citrus — like oranges, blood oranges and grapefruits — is fresh and ripe now until early spring. A peak grapefruit is very juicy, with enough sweetness to balance its inherent tartness (but not as much sweetness as an orange or tangerine.) Most citrus grown in the U.S. comes from Florida, Texas, California and Arizona.

You can find root vegetables like beets, turnips and celery root still in season in January. Younger, smaller turnips will be sweeter and less bitter than more mature turnips. This is also a good time for digging up horseradish roots. When buying winter roots, look for them to be firm and heavy with no signs of sprouting or shriveling. If they’re light for their size, chances are they’ve been stored improperly or for too long, and they may be spongy or dried out.

The dry heat of roasting brings out the natural sweetness in root vegetables. Roast a single variety or a medley of veggies. To achieve a roasty brown color and flavor, use a rimmed baking sheet, a jellyroll pan or a low-sided roasting pan. High-sided roasting pans shield the vegetables from the direct oven heat and won’t give you much browning.

Make sure to eat your fresh green veggies — cabbage, collards, kale, kohlrabi, broccoli and cauliflower. Collard greens are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium, a rich source of vitamin K, and a good source of iron, vitamin B-6 and magnesium. 

Cauliflower comes in all sorts of festive colors now — purple, orange, light green. The color is all-natural; the purple comes from the antioxidant anthocyanin and the orange from extra beta-carotene. The taste is the same as white cauliflower, but with more nutritional benefits.

Hardy kale plants can stand up to winter’s cold temperatures, and many growers leave them in the ground after the first freeze. The plants will not continue to produce new growth, but the leaves, while more fibrous and chewier than summer and fall kale, are entirely edible. Winter kale is best cooked. Look for kale that is dark green with pert, crisp leaves. Limp leaves are an indication that the bunch is on its way out.

Beets store incredibly well and are a staple of many seasonal eaters’ root cellars. The winter varieties are not as tender as smaller spring beets and should be cooked. The larger the beet, the longer it will last. Look for fat, firm beets with roots intact. The green tops will have been removed already. Both golden and red beets keep well throughout the cold months.

Don’t forget the sturdy winter squash! You can still find plenty of butternut squash and acorn squash. While harvested in the fall, these squash can keep for months.

Winter officially begins Dec. 21, but don’t use that as an excuse to skip out on fresh fruits and vegetables. Thanks to growers across the country, we can still enjoy fresh produce.

(Vicki Hayman is a University of Wyoming Extension Nutrition and Food Safety educator.) 

Guest Column