5 Types of Unusual Winter Produce
Cooking and eating in-season produce is great for your health, but come January, many of us have had our share of winter staples like cranberries and squash. Brighten up your palette and your plate with a few lesser-known varieties. These five types of unusual winter produce are packed with nutrients and unique flavor profiles that can help liven up your cold-weather diet.
Here’s a look at the origins of these fruits and vegetables along with healthful recipes.
- Kumquats (cumquats): Native to China and cultivated in Japan for centuries, this edible fruit looks similar to an orange, but is closer in size to a large olive. Many botanists consider kumquats citrus fruits, but they’re often classified in their own genus: Fortunella. The fruit contains antioxidants like vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E. Its peel is sweet, while the fruit is tangy and sour – contrasting flavors that make kumquats a great raw treat. If you’re looking for a more complex preparation, they can also be used for salads, marmalades and jams, or even in a kumquat tagine.
- Sunchokes (Jerusalem artichoke, sunroot, sunchoke, earth apple or topinambour): This species of sunflower is native to eastern North America. The tuber of a sunchoke is used as a root vegetable. Sunchokes are rich in the carbohydrate inulin. Over time, they convert this inulin into fructose, which has a sweet taste. Sunchokes also contain minerals and electrolytes, in particular iron, potassium and copper. Roasting sunchokes with olive oil, rosemary, salt and garlic is an easy way to enjoy this vegetable.
- Cardoons (artichoke thistle, cardone, cardoni, carduni or cardi): Native to the western and central Mediterranean region, this low-calorie leaf vegetable contains antioxidants and fiber. It’s also a good source of folic acid, niacin, vitamin B-6, thiamin and pantothenic acid. The flower buds are also edible but typically the leaf stalks (which look like celery) are often served steamed or braised. For an authentic Spanish flavor, try making cardoon with almond sauce.
- Cherimoya (cherimoya): Grown on trees throughout South Asia, Central America, South America, Southern California and parts of Europe, this white, fleshy fruit is a good source of B-complex vitamins and vitamin C. The flavor of cherimoya flesh can vary from mellow sweet to tangy or acidic sweet. Depending on the variety, it might evoke comparisons to bananas, berries, pineapples, papayas or apples. One way to prepare cherimoya is grilled as part of a salad.
- Persimmons: Persimmons trees are native to China but were introduced to California a few centuries ago. The fruit is low in calories and fat but rich in dietary fiber. It also contains B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, copper and magnesium. Persimmons can be eaten fresh or raw (with some varieties it’s best to remove the skin first), or prepared as part of dishes such as an ancho chile cranberry persimmon relish.
These five are just the tip of the iceberg: check out community-supported agriculture (CSA) shares and farmers markets to discover even more offbeat produce.
Have you tried any of these fruits or vegetables? How would you prepare them? Leave a comment and let us know!
Emily Newhook is the outreach coordinator for the MHA degree (http://mha.gwu.edu/) program from The George Washington University, MHA@GW. Outside of work, she enjoys writing, horror movies and powerlifting. Follow Emily on Twitter <a href=”http://www.twitter.com/EmilyNewhook“>@EmilyNewhook</a> and <a href=”https://plus.google.com/u/0/106767427576878722778/posts? rel=author”>Google+</a>