Winter Vegetable Wonder Land

photo 4We want to kick off this week with a congratulatory shout-out to Holly, the winner of our anniversary contest from last week. Holly has been a long-time follower of our site and her loyalty paid off with a quick response to our post. Holly, your gift is in the mail! Thanks to everyone for participating. While researching the list of questions, we realized how much information we have packed into our weekly posts throughout the last years and decided to include more links to our past writing so that we can rediscover them together. One way will be to link to posts published during the same week one, two and three years ago at the bottom of the post. Understanding that we are all bombarded with information, maybe one or another of the titles will spark your interest and you’ll find the time to explore. Come and cook with us!

We are lucky to live in the state of California, where a variety of vegetables and fruits is available year-round. The limitations set by the growing season became evident when we spent time with my parents in Italy in the heart of winter, when only those vegetables that do well in cold storage such as onions, winter squashes, roots and cabbages – mainly in the form of sauerkraut – make it to the dinner table. We are clearly spoiled when visiting the farmer’s market in Northern California in January. So many options to choose from and, as a result, included in our weekly CSA box. Those locally grown, seasonal vegetables help us adapt to our surroundings by subtly connecting us to the rhythm of the seasons.  Here is a quick overview of the most beneficial winter vegetables and what you can do with them – especially when you’re in a pinch.

Dark Green and Leafy Green Vegetables: including kale, collards, mustard greens, turnip tops, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, parsley, arugula, kohlrabi and wild greens.

  • Try to eat at least one serving of these daily to enrich your diet with vital chlorophyll, iron, calcium, Vitamin C, Vitamin A and lots of fiber.

Fat-Dissolvers: including radishes, turnips, onions, green onions, leeks and shiitake mushrooms.

  • Chinese medicine recommends eating veggies in the radish and onion family, as well as shiitake mushrooms, to dissolve fats and excess mucus.

The Cabbage Family: including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, savoy cabbage, red cabbage and brussels sprouts.

  • For cancer-prevention, eat plenty of cabbage family vegetables, in addition to dark greens, orange roots and squashes

Nutritional Roots and Winter Squash: including carrots, parsnip, rutabaga, burdock and all kinds of squashes such as acorn, butternut, buttercup, delicata, hubbard, kabocha, pumpkin and spaghetti squash.

  • Hearty and satisfying, these are excellent sources of Vitamin A, beta-carotene, minerals and fiber.

There are two other main group of vegetables that, at least based on some theories, should not be consumed too often. Those are the nightshades including tomato, potato, eggplant, green pepper and red pepper as they speed heart-rate and slow digestion. They’re high in alkaloids, which block Vitamin B absorption and for some individuals may contribute to arthritic and rheumatic symptoms. The other vegetables that are potentially stressful to the body are chard, spinach, beets and rhubarb. These contain oxalic acid, which binds calcium and eliminates it from the body, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and kidney stones – so eat them with limitations.

What to do with all those colorful vegetables in a pinch? During these colder winter months, it’s best to slow-simmer, bake, pressure-cook or sauté the veggies, serving them warm for comfort, heat and strength. Try a hearty soup with chickpeas, yams, squash, carrots and some greens or sauté the dark leafy greens along with some garlic and ginger. During this time of year, skip the juicing, raw-diets and cold dishes – saving them for when it’s warm again.

Stay well!

Previous Years:
1/31/2013: You Know Why, This Is How
1/26/2012: More than One Way to Sow Your Wild Oats
1/27/2011: Roast Now, Peel Later: The Butternut Squash

One thought on “Winter Vegetable Wonder Land

  1. Dear readers:
    After seeing this post, my friend asked me if this means we should not eat any tomatoes, potatoes and spinach anymore. I wanted to clarify that what I mean is that it’s best to change things up a bit. Eating spinach is great, but having spinach salad every day for lunch is too much. Go for kale instead. Same goes for the tomato soup. Mix it up and don’t have the same meal every day, no matter how much you love it.
    Stay well and let me know what you think after reading tomorrow’s post…

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