Winter is a subject I usually prefer to ignore, and in California this is pretty easy to do.
Although temperatures approach freezing at night, rarely do things actually freeze. We have our farmers market here in San Francisco year round, and overall I realize I am utterly spoiled.
But that doesn’t make it any easier to get excited about winter.
It’s still cold. It’s still gray. It gets dark early and the nights are long. Everything and everyone seems to want to hibernate, especially me.
But this weekend I decided to embrace winter and all its glorious produce. I think I was inspired by all the delicious recipes around the blogosphere. Who knows. But today I was excited about parsnips, braising greens, mushrooms and citrus, and barely even noticed that my pomegranates and peppers are out for the count.
Winter greens and root vegetables are especially exciting to me right now. I know this sounds weird, but until you’ve tasted them at the height of season (as we are now in), it is hard to know what I mean.
The difference is that during a lot of the year hearty greens and root vegetables like turnips and kohlrabi can be very bitter and spicy. They are edible in this state, but require a lot more work to be delicious. Right now all these vegetables are sweet, almost like candy.
If you don’t believe me, head down to the market and try some of the samples. People’s ooos and ahhs from their surprise at the delicious flavor of daikon and kohlrabi is audible throughout the market. Nobody expects vegetables to be this sweet.
The same is true for the brassica, things like cabbage, kale and collards. All these vegetables can be bitter and pungent when eaten out of season, but now they are as sweet and delicious as fruit.
Another thing you don’t want to miss this season is the mushrooms. Truffles are expensive, but a small domestic white truffle can be purchased for around $10 or less and can make a spectacular treat for a weekend brunch. The chantarelle mushrooms are also big and flavorful this time of year. Personally I am loving the flavor and texture of trumpet mushrooms cooked up in a little olive oil and parsley.
Citrus fruit are the stars of the fruit scene, though you can still find some lingering pears and persimmons. I love the size and flavor of the clementines this time of year, but am looking forward to the grapefruits, pomelos and navel oranges sweetening up.
And it is hard to complain too much if there are Meyer lemons around.
Now is also a great time to get heirloom beans, dried chilies, sustainable meats, dried spices, tropical fruits, walnut oil, dried fruit and artisan cheeses.
- Braising greens (Marin Roots Farm)
- Parsnips (Tierra Vegetables)
- Carrots (Tierra Vegetables)
- Kohlrabi (Heirloom Organic Gardens)
- Fingerling potatoes (Zuckerman’s farm)
- Shallots (Dirty Girl Produce)
- Bosc pear (Frog Hollow Farm)
- Warren pear (Frog Hollow Farm)
- Clementines (Olsen Organic Farm)
- Kale (Capay Organics)
- Rosemary (Eatwell Farm)
- Pink lady apples (K & J Orchards)
- Walnut oil (Glashoff Farms)
Have you embraced winter?