It sure is cold outside! You’re definitely not going to stumble upon a strawberry outside anytime soon. But winter isn’t all bad. Thanks to modern methods of extending the growing season, farmers are able to produce fresh food well into winter.
It can be easy to ignore what produce is actually in season come December when you can walk into any grocery store and it still looks like summer. Thanks to shipments from South America and beyond, we are spoiled, eating whatever we want, whenever we want. But if you want to eat food that hasn’t been picked before its prime, artificially ripened, and trucked thousands of miles, it’s worth considering making your selections from this list.
Depending on where you live, these crops may continue to grow locally, or they’ll be trucked in from shorter distances. Plus, they’re naturally in season this time of year so they’ll taste best.
Here’s what to look for this month:
Even though the apple harvest is over, apples store well, so those apples offered in December, are still local and juicy. Apples can last 1 to 2 months in slightly cool temperatures, but up to 6 months when stored professionally (30ºF to 40ºF with high humidity), so December has nothing on your apples.
Beets store even better than apples do. In slightly warmer areas, they’re just being harvested now. In cooler regions, they’ve been stocked up. The bright right color and their nutritious, flavorful root, make them a natural around the holidays.
Broccoli can be grown year-round. It’s actually less bitter and has a sweeter taste when harvested in cooler temperatures of early winter.
Brussels sprouts have been ignored for years, but thanks to delicious new recipes, they’re more popular than ever. And right now, the mini-cabbages are back in season. If you see then still on the stalk, snatch them up — they last even longer that way.
The cooler the weather at harvest, the sweeter the cabbage. Select cabbages that feel compact and heavy for their size. Cabbages keep for a pretty long time when stored properly with the bit of humidity in the vegetable crisper.
In much of the country, carrots are harvested through early winter, but they also keep well in storage, so they’re available from local stock for quite a while. Carrots grow well year-round in temperate areas, so they’re pretty much available semi-locally all year long.
This cool weather crop is at its tastiest in the fall and winter.
Every year when the sky goes grey and snow falls, we long for the fresh flavors and bright bursts of color brought by citrus fruits. Clementines are the first citrus fruits to hit peak season. They’ll start to swamp stores by early December. Try adoring your cheese or charcuterie board with a few fresh clementines this season to add some color.
Cranberries are harvested in New England and parts of the Midwest. They’re sold fresh well into December. Try them in this delicious recipe for baked brie with cranberry jalapeño jam.
The cool weather means sweeter kale. Cook it up in stews, smoothies, salads, and just about anywhere for a nutritional boost.
Onions store well, so with a later summer and fall harvest, December is still perfectly prime time for an onion.
There is a reason children used to get oranges in their Christmas stockings. These popular citrus fruits come into market by early to mid December.
Another popular fruit for the holidays, thanks to its sparkling bright red arils, pomegranates only grow in warmer climates, but they’re available fresh at the store from October through December. Try them in appetizers or on salads.
Potatoes will have been harvested in the fall from most local growers, but they store well through December, and even later.
Radishes are in season. Chop them up for salads or as a garnish. They can sometimes be used in place of an onion. Even dipping them in salt and eating them raw is pretty popular.
Sweet potatoes store well, so you’re still probably getting local sweet potatoes through December.
Winter squash is a very versatile vegetable for the cooler months. Use it in soups, stews, side dishes, salads, or string spaghetti squash as a pasta substitute. Most have thick skins that need to be removed, but it’s a great, fresh option for December, and even later.