On Your Health

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Oklahoma Winter In-Season Produce

Your winter produce selection isn’t solely limited to sugar plums, chestnuts and fruitcakes. The seasonal harvest is bountiful with hearty, healthy squash, robust root veggies, nutrient-rich leafy greens and much more!

These stalky vegetables and fruit are sowed early and are ripe for picking during the later months of the year. The cool weather crops are able to handle light frost and some are even sweetened by it! Oklahoma’s own winter harvest can yield root vegetables, winter squash and even pecans. Though some cold weather vegetables and fruits aren’t typically grown in our state, grocery stores will be full of winter’s tasty tidings from different regions.

If there’s a winter fruit or vegetable you haven’t thought of trying, have a little spontaneity and add it to your holiday or winter menus!

What’s in Season

The cold season often comes with shorter and darker days, but that doesn’t mean your menu has to be bland. Representatives from the many different plant groups hit their peak near winter. Culinary variety is easy to achieve with this vast selection of produce.

Root Vegetables

·         Potatoes

·         Sweet potatoes

·         Carrots

·         Parsnips

·         Leaf Vegetables              

·         Cabbage             

·         Kale      

·         Collards

Flowers Vegetables    

·         Broccoli               

·         Cauliflower

·         Bulb Vegetables

·         Onions 

·         Leeks   

·         Fennel

·         Garlic

Fruits  

·         Acorn squash    

·         Butternut squash            

·         Citrus fruits        

·         Pomegranate   

·         Pecans

Choosing Produce

Overall, avoid produce with any deep bruising or cuts. Naturally firm vegetables, including root vegetables, squash and onions, shouldn’t be mushy at all. If the produce is overly soft, it may indicate rot and the vegetable has gone bad.

Potatoes and sweet potatoes should be extremely firm and free from any sprouting on their exteriors. If you do notice a brown spot after purchasing, you can cut the spot off, but if the vegetable is mushy or spotted throughout, you should throw it out.

When it comes to flower vegetables, look for firm, healthy looking floret clusters and stalks. Brown spots and deep cuts should be avoided when selecting cauliflower and broccoli. Cauliflower should be creamy white and firm, while broccoli should be a healthy green.

Leaf vegetables, including kale and collards, should be vibrant in color and crisp in texture. Never choose leaf vegetables that feel slimy or look wilted. Cabbage should be selected for its firmness. Avoid cabbage that looks badly damaged or spotted.

Leek stems should be firm and white near the neck of the plant and dark green toward the top, with a white and smooth bulb. Fennel bulbs should also be white in color, blemish-free and firm.  Garlic should be firm and compact within its tight outer skin.

Citrus fruit should have tough, blemish-free rinds and feel as if they have a bit of weight to them. Fruit that is slightly heavier may indicate it has more juice. Pomegranates should also feel heavy in your hand and have a firm angular shape. Remember to never choose produce that appears to have mold or other unusual substances on it.

Storing and Prepping Tips

Most vegetables and fruit can be put in the crisper drawers of your fridge.  Be sure to keep your crisper free from excess moisture to ensure fresher and more lasting produce. Fresh produce, like leafy green and florets, should be used within several days from purchase.

Root vegetables have a little longer shelf life. Carrots can last three to five weeks in the fridge while parsnips can last for three to four weeks. Potatoes can be kept for three to five weeks in a pantry. An ideal storage space for all root vegetables is an area that is cool, well-ventilated and dark.

Some squash can last several months if stored correctly, but make sure to monitor it to make sure it retains firmness. Acorn squash lasts up to four weeks.

Onions and garlic can be kept in a basket, in your pantry or cellar, or any other dry, cool spot. Onions can last for up to six week on the counter, while whole garlic can last for several months (individual cloves last for about one month.)

Pomegranates can ripen on the counter for several days, but will last longer if refrigerated and bagged. When in the fridge they can last for up to three months. Citrus fruits can last for about a week on the counter and up to three weeks in the fridge.

Pecans still in their shells should be cracked and shelled relatively soon after picking or purchasing. Pecans retain natural oil and must be stored properly to avoid becoming rancid. Allow pecans to dry in a warm place for several days. Once dry, store the pecans in an airtight container for two to four weeks in a pantry or in the refrigerator for several months. Dried pecans can be frozen for nearly two years.

Overall, never consume any produce that appears to have gone rancid or has any moldy substance on it.

Always wash your vegetables before prepping, whether the produce is organic or not. A generous, cool rinse under the sink faucet should properly clean your produce before cooking and eating.

If you’re not sure how to how to add the vegetable or fruit to a dish, look up the produce online and see what winter recipes incorporate it – or prep it alone and serve plain to let the natural flavor shine. There are two bonus recipes below featuring in-season produce.

Nutrition is important all year round no matter the season. Keep eating healthy this winter!

Brussels Sprout Salad

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

1 lb Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and shredded

3 - 4 cups Kale, stems removed and shredded

2 tablespoons Olive Oil

1 teaspoon Garlic, minced

4 tablespoons fresh Lemon Juice

Dash of Red Chili Pepper Flakes

Salt and Pepper to taste

6 pieces of Turkey Bacon, Real Bacon or Veggie Bacon

Toasted Almonds (Optional)

DIRECTIONS

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and garlic. After 1 - 2 minutes, mix in the kale and shredded Brussels sprouts and continue to toss until it's slightly wilted. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Add lemon juice and red pepper flakes and mix together. Cover to keep warm.

2. In a separate skillet over medium heat, spray with cooking spray. Once the pan is hot, add two to three slices of the turkey bacon at a time. Cook the bacon until it is golden brown on both sides. Once it's cooked, place on a bed of paper towels and dab off any excess oil and grease.

3. Once the bacon has cooled, crumble onto the greens. Transfer greens and bacon to a large serving bowl and sprinkle with toasted almonds if desired.

Grilled Cabbage

Serves 2-4

INGREDIENTS

1 Head Cabbage

4 Teaspoons Butter

4 Slices Bacon

Spice Mix:

1 Teaspoon Salt

1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder

1/4 Teaspoon Pepper

2 Tablespoons Grated Parmesan Cheese

DIRECTIONS

1. Cut cabbage into four wedges.

2. Place each wedge on a piece of doubled heavy-duty aluminum foil.

3. Spread cut sides with butter.

4. Mix spices together in a small container and sprinkle all of the mixture equally over each wedge.

5. Wrap bacon around each wedge.

6. Fold foil around cabbage, sealing each wedge tightly.

7. Grill cabbage, covered, over medium heat for 40 minutes or until the cabbage is tender, turning twice.

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