Winter veggies usually get short shrift, but there are many reasons to savor them. They add loads of vitamins and nutrients to our diets, do wonders for our immunity, and are wonderfully versatile. Plus, eating seasonally is eating green: as it takes us back to the old days of eating only the freshest available products, it’s a more sustainable eating model and it’s better for reducing our carbon footprints.
Here’s my guide to making the most of these five fabulous winter veggies:
1. Play Squash
I actually look forward to winter just for its squash varieties. Acorn, banana, butternut, spaghetti, delicata, hubbard, sweet dumpling, buttercup, and turban squashes—not to mention pumpkin—add a colorful and sweet accent to your plate. Plus, they are among the healthiest types of complex carbohydrates (the best kind of carbs), with high fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C content. Roast ‘em, mash ‘em, or slow cook ‘em into a heaping bowl of soupy goodness for the perfect warm winter meal.
2. Reconnect With Your Roots
Carrots and white potatoes are staple root vegetables—but you can also enjoy sweet potatoes and yams, which have higher nutritional value than white potatoes and serve as healthy complex carbs, as their vitamins A and C content are off the charts. Let’s face it: sunchokes, salsify, turnips, parsnips, and rutabagas seem bland. However, they’re high in fiber and vitamin C, and with the right seasoning, they can serve as delightful foundations for soups, purees, and roasted veggie medleys.
3. Get Down to the Beet
I suppose the beet is an acquired taste, but for those of us who are believers, it sure is a good one. The sugary root vegetable deserves an individual mention because it’s the most nutritious root veggie of the patch, Not only is it packed with vitamins, but it also serves as a natural cleanser for the liver and bloodstream. And although it’s as sweet as candy, it’s surprisingly low-calorie, making it a deceivingly decadent addition to salads. For a hotter take, help yourself to a steaming bowl of borscht (beet soup), or add a gorgeous shock of color to your winter plate with roasted pink and golden beets.
4. There Once Was a Sprout from Brussels
Brussels sprouts have gotten a bad rap over the years. If you’ve only ever had them boiled to the point of mushy abandon, you’d hide them in your napkin, too. The fact is, these little green nuggets are particularly vitamin C-rich—a huge bonus during head-cold season. Roast them with a touch of olive oil, cracked pepper, fresh lemon juice, and a sprinkling of fresh Parmesan for a dish that wows.
5. Kale-er Greens
Kale is one of nature’s superfoods, packed with essential vitamins and nutrients such as folate, iron, and magnesium. As are chard and spinach, as well as many other varieties of winter greens, such as collards, escarole, and mustard greens. I enjoy these leafy wonders best lightly sautéed with garlic, shallots, and fresh lemon juice, or cooked into stews.