Shake Up Your Winter Menu with these 10 Uncommon and In-Season Foods
By Stacey Gretka, BSHN
We know the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, and the added “points” of eating them when they are in-season, but sometimes we still find ourselves stuck in a rut of repeats: potatoes, apples, and pumpkins, oh my! Aren’t there any other options? Yes! There are and they really are unique, easy-to-use, and delicious. We at TNT have collected some of the most unique American fruits and veggies that are in-season this winter, and we want to know: which ones will you try this season?
1. American Persimmon
You may have heard of the wood from these Native Kentucky trees being used for golf clubs, but native their fruits are golden orange or red, sweet, and just as special. They look like tiny apple-tomatoes, are high in vitamins A & C and simply the best in their raw state.
Try it sliced and tossed on your next salad, or throw some minced persimmon into your next batch of breakfast muffins.
A slightly bitter, green leafy relative of the endive, this potassium-rich winter veggie usually only gets attention during war time because the roots make a great (caffeine-free) coffee substitute. In fact, many coffee companies still use chicory as an additive to ground coffee.
At home, though, you can make an easy salad like this one instead!
A very special treat for those who dare to withstand the cold temperatures of states like Alaska or Minnesota, this tart fruit is high in vitamins A and C and according to Scandinavians makes a great spread or liquor!
If you manage to get your hands on these goodies, try this easy cloudberry meringue recipe!
4. Glass Gem Corn
Actually a hybrid corn developed by Carl Barnes in Oklahoma from ancestral varieties, this “Flint” corn, is best used ground into cornmeal for grits or tortillas, or dried for popcorn! Since it’s still a super unique starch, you’d likely have to grow your own or find some ears at a local farmers market rather than your standard grocer.
5. Hedge Apple
Looking more like a neon green brain than an apple, the Hedge Apple can be found anywhere from Texas to Virginia and is actually an unappetizing, stringy and slimy mess. But the seeds… they’re worth the fight. Toasted and seasoned, they make a fun alternative to the ever common sunflower or pumpkin seeds.
Plus, the hedge apple itself makes a great Halloween decoration and – BONUS – they repel insects!
My first experience with a pawpaw was when watching The Jungle Book so it shocked me to learn this Baloo-favorite actually grows in 26 states, mostly in riverbeds along the Eastern Shores. Like a toasty, tropic custard, the pawpaw goes great with coconut in decadent desserts like this one, or you can go super simple and healthy by blending the flesh, freezing and eating like dairy-free ice cream (think exotic Yonanas)!
Growing like a weed in even the worst soil, this lemony leaf is a veritable minefield of nutrients! From potassium and calcium to magnesium and iron, this crunchy gem might as well be the next superfood. Best of all? The omega-3 content of healthy purslane (not limp or dried) beats out that of all other green veggies!
Impress your friends by making an exotic bean or grain salad flavored with your new favorite herb, sauté some instead of spinach for tonight’s side, or try any one of these 45 Things to do with Purslane!
Like a skinny rutabaga, this less common root vegetable has a few different color options, all interchangeable, and all great sources of fiber, vitamins C & B6, as well as potassium and even folate. Though it might look like a kitchen-challenge, salsify is incredibly versatile and works in nearly any kind of recipe! Pro-tips: salsify tastes even better after a frost or two and is easier to peel after cooking. Since salsify actually has a notable protein content, it can also stand as the main course in recipes reminiscent of eggplant parmesan. But for starters, try these salsi-fries!
What happens when sunflower seeds don’t sprout beautiful flowers? They make sunchokes. You may have heard them called Jerusalem Artichokes, but no matter what you call them the fact remains that they’re in season from now until next spring and they offer iron, potassium, thiamin and of course inulin. Looking a bit like colorful fingerling potatoes, the sunchoke is sweet and nutty. Reminds me a bit of jicama in that it works well raw, baked as chips, or (get this) boiled, skin-removed, mashed and served like mashed potatoes! How easy is that? Season and enjoy!
10. White Sapote
Okay, this one is originally from Mexico, but now it grows happily in California, Florida, and Hawaii (since the early 1900’s). There is more to this creamy apple than meets the eye though: it’s a fragile fruit whose flavor can vary widely from peach to banana, but can easily turn bitter (i.e. one bad sapote shouldn’t turn you from them for good). Be sure your sapote is fully ripe to enjoy its full flavor. Like other warm-weather fruits, the sapote is high in Vitamin C and folate, but it’s also been touted as an anti-carcinogenic, calming gold-mine. If you want to go beyond raw usage, the soft, creamy flesh makes the sapote a great addition to any smoothie, like this one.
We hope you and your family enjoy your new found produce favorites this season!
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