Sarah KrauseWe all know everyone looks forward to summer produce – ripe cherries, fresh berries, a surplus of stone fruit. But winter? Let’s just say the produce aisles don’t appear to be bursting with fresh fruits and vegetables as they were just a few short months ago. No beckoning “Locally-grown!” signs, no overflowing crates of corn on the cob, no icy tubs of whole watermelons.
While produce is, of course, available year-round from almost any corner of the earth, pickings can be a bit scarce. So what do moms look forward to buying at this time of year, particularly for the holiday season?
Personally, I always eagerly await pomegranates, usually mid-season when they are at their juiciest and best deep-burgundy red. Their season runs mainly October through December. This coincides perfectly for a pomegranate to find its way into my stocking at Christmas. Suffice it to say, I’ve been PomCrazy way before the general public went all PomWonderful with seemingly every product containing an ounce of pomegranate juice. Even my shower gel is “enriched with real extract of pomegranate, nature’s anti-oxidant rich fruit.”
Whatever. All I care about is that they taste delicious. I can plow through a whole fruit in 20 minutes. (My record: 14 minutes…should I be admitting this?) All three of my kids like pomegranates, too, often taking a section in their lunch or digging into them for a snack. In fact, our home even has no fewer than five pieces of artwork dedicated to this tasty fruit! I digress.
What are other moms crazy about? I polled a handful to find out.
Karen P. waits for winter oranges, specifically clementines. “I’ve always gotten an orange in my stocking, ever since I was little,” she recalled. “I always try to get tons of clementines this time of year.” Most people think of clementines as small tangerines, but they are really the tiniest of the mandarins, a cross between a sweet orange and a Chinese mandarin. Besides U.S. supplies, clementines are imported from Spain, Morocco and other parts of North Africa and are small, very sweet, usually seedless and super easy to peel. All this make them particularly popular with kids. Tammy J. said Clementines, “aka Cuties” are her fave holiday-time fruit because “my kids love them and can peel them themselves.” A few other moms (myself included!) echo this same sentiment.
Another popular produce item, and obvious choice, is the cranberry, which is available mainly October through December. Both Shaunie W. and Margot B. couldn’t decide between cranberries or pumpkin as faves, but Jenny F. said she not only cooks with cranberries but uses them throughout her home. “I fill up glass vases and decorate with them because they’re so festive,” she said.
A quick glance around the produce section provides a cornucopia of winter fruit and vegetable choices. MedicineNet.com suggests looking beyond cranberries, sweet potatoes and pumpkin. Check out persimmons, kiwi, kumquats, persimmons, pears or rutabagas. The website adds: “Here's the kicker: All these winter choices have notable nutritional attributes, including scores of healthful phytochemicals.”
The yummy Asian Pear (sometimes called the Korean Pear) is an excellent winter choice, a perfect blend of juicy pear and crisp apple. My sister-in-law only buys this variety of pear, which is high in Vitamin C. She even buys it by the case! But any pear, at their peak during the fall and winter months, is a healthy, delicious choice.
Other choices? Susan H. loves Brussels sprouts, but only “if done the right way – roasted in olive oil with a little kosher salt and black pepper.” Kelly H. prefers sweet potatoes (which contain a whopping dose of all those good-for-you vitamins) at this time of year. And my friend, Chris W., said she’s cooking more with winter squash lately.
So give your supermarket’s winter produce section a second look!