How to Make Winter Produce Shine in Your Cooking

As winter digs its heels in, it’s not unusual to start craving very different foods to what you eat during the rest of the year. Hearty, rich pastas and casseroles, soups and curries – these warming foods are especially comforting on a winter’s evening.

Luckily there’s a whole host of fresh winter produce that offers respite from the cold.

Experimenting with seasonal produce that grows predominantly in winter is a great way to expand your cooking repertoire, as well as enjoy the health benefits that come with eating seasonal ingredients.

1. Artichokes

Artichokes are a delicious vegetable that often get ignored at the grocery store. They do require a bit more preparation than other vegetables, as they have to be boiled, but this extra step is totally worth it. Even though artichoke season starts in autumn and stretches all the way through spring, it’s in winter that they’re in their prime.

The only parts of the artichoke that are suitable to eat are the start of the leaf (the softer bit) and the heart. There are many ways to eat them, the easiest one being to boil the artichoke, plate it up, pour a dressing of choice into a mini bowl (could be lemon juice/balsamic vinegar, olive oil and a tiny bit of salt), dip the artichoke leaves in the dressing and enjoy them one by one until you get to the heart (the most delicious part!).

Alternatively, you can also add pulled artichoke to lasagnas or pizzas or just bake them in the oven and serve along with other veggies. A little tip when choosing artichokes: pick the ones which have a thick stalk, as this indicates that their heart is bigger.

2. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are extremely versatile and add an incredible flavour and texture to any meal. Mushrooms usually thrive in a damp, wet environment, which means mushroom season starts in autumn and stretches all the way through winter.

This delicious vegetable is easy to enjoy on its own as a side for any main. Think sautéed with butter, garlic and a bit of white wine or simply cooked with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. They also go beautifully with breakfast, alongside eggs or as the star ingredient on toast with some goat’s fetta. Try Robur Farm goat fetta, available at independent grocers.

3. Citrus fruits

Citrus fruits are available all year round, but winter is the season where they are at their best and peak ripeness.

They’re also packed with nutrients, like high levels of Vitamin C (a great antioxidant to fight the flu), Vitamin A and fibre.

There are plenty of ways to enjoy these fruits during winter. Have a navel orange or mandarin as a snack or dessert. Add them to a salad – orange tastes great mixed in with an otherwise savoury dish. Grapefruit is great as a morning drink, and lemon juice can be used in a variety of ways: as a salad dressing, as lemonade, for cooking (great with chicken and fish) or even to add some flavour to your water or tea (tip: consider adding the lemon peel instead of the actual lemon to the water – it’ll make it less bitter).

4. Beetroot

An Australian favourite, beetroot is high in folic acid, manganese, potassium and fibre. This bright purple vegetable is thought to prevent some types of cancer due to its strong pigment, and it steals the show in many dishes.

Enjoy it finely grated when raw as a highlight in your salad, adding a subtle touch of sweetness. When boiled, you can have it by itself with a little bit of dressing or in a hamburger. It’s also delicious cut into cubes and eaten alongside feta cheese, baby spinach and pumpkin.

5. Pomegranates

This alluring fruit is filled with amazing nutrients, including a powerful antioxidant called punicalagin which helps fight cancer and heart disease. Pomegranates have more of this antioxidant than red wine, cranberry juice and even green tea. They also have high levels of fibre, potassium, folate, copper and Vitamins C and K.

Add its seeds to salads, desserts and even on your porridge for breakfast. It’s also delicious as a topping for a lamb dish or in a chicken and quinoa salad.

6. Leek

Leek belongs to the Allium vegetable family, like garlic and onion, but its taste is much milder and sweeter, which makes it great for people who aren’t that keen on the strong flavours and scents that garlic and onion can give. Leek is a great source of Vitamin A and C.

Leek can be used to add flavour to any dish, or to make the famous leek and potato soup, which is perfect for winter. It’s also delicious in chicken pie or added to fried rice. When choosing leek, always go for one with crisp leaves and stain-free stalks.

Creating your winter menu around seasonal fruit and vegetables

The colder season can mean not only an adjustment to the milder temperatures, but also an adjustment of what you eat and cook. While many lament the lack of summer fruits and veggies, there are tonnes of others that are at their prime during winter. Get the most out of winter produce and add maximum nutrients and flavour to your meals by paying attention to what’s in season.