Winter is upon us — time to slow down, stay in and conserve energy. And just as it’s a great time to take stock of another passing year, it’s also the perfect time to take stock of your pantry reserves. Turn to the comfort of foods you’ve put by and the convenience of pantry staples, such as beans, grains and pasta. And, as always, get excited about the foods that are in season, which include some tasty fruits, savory greens, nourishing veggies, hearty meats and an abundance of fresh mushrooms.
Human beings have learned to preserve food in a miraculous variety of ways. Through fermentation, for example, we turn our extra veggies into sour, pickled gems; our fruits and grains into tasty wine and beer; our fresh milk and meat into fine, aged cheeses and charcuterie. Low-tech canning equipment helps us enjoy the summer-fresh flavor of tomatoes, corn and green beans long after the harvest has ended. Freezing and drying round out our arsenal of food preservation techniques, as almost anything fresh can be frozen or dried for later use.
If you want to honor the cyclical nature of the seasons, this is the time of year that creativity in the kitchen is most valuable. Try to relish sun-dried tomatoes and frozen corn as much as their vine-ripened and freshly shucked counterparts. Look for inspiration in dried herbs and spices, and in long-keeping storage items, such as root veggies, winter squash and apples. Think about the foods you wish you’d canned or pickled this summer, and add them to next year’s list.
If you eat meat, try to consider the seasonality of animal products, too. Fresh eggs are less abundant in winter, so think about replacing this breakfast staple with high-protein grains instead. Rely on cured or frozen meats, or wild game, such as duck and turkey, bagged in season. Winter is the obvious time to eat beef, bison and venison, too, as the animals will have fattened themselves up to make it through winter. If you’re lucky enough to live in ice-fishing territory, try to get your hands on fresh-caught crappie, pike or walleye.
What’s in Season?
The following foods may be in season in many parts of the country during winter.
Salad Greens: lettuce, spinach
Cooking Greens: Asian greens, beet greens, collards, kale, mustard greens, spinach, Swiss chard, turnip greens
Garden Veggies: beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, leeks, onions, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkins, scallions, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squash
Fruits: apples, cranberries, figs, pears
Wild Edibles: cattail shoots, chickweed, garlic mustard, onion grass, watercress
Nuts and Seeds: hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, walnuts; pumpkin and winter squash seeds
Mushrooms: black trumpet, candy cap, cauliflower, chanterelle, truffles, wood blewitt, wood hedgehog