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Winter Eating In Your Region

Dec. 19, 2015

Winter Eating In Your Region

By Kerry Dunnington, five-time national award winning cookbook author of Tasting the Seasons and This Books Cooks.

Kerry DunningtonWhen the grocery store landscape changed in the 60s – going from eating only what was available from the local farmer to being able to buy a wide variety of produce year-round, consumers were thrilled with all the choices. Suddenly food was being shipped all around the country. When the Florida groves were producing oranges in winter, they began shipping them far and wide. When asparagus was in season in the south, growers were shipping it across the USA. People in the northeast region could serve tender green spears when outside temperatures were in the thirties. When Midwesterners were shoveling their snowbound driveways and footpaths, the town grocer likely had a supply of strawberries, a seemingly perfect fruit topping for morning cereal. Enjoying a variety of produce year round became the norm.

Fast forward to 2015: grocery store produce sections are huge, because fruit and vegetables are imported from countries worldwide: for example, asparagus from Peru, strawberries from China, tomatoes from Mexico – these items may look “fresh,” but in fact, they have traveled hundreds or even thousands of miles over days or even weeks. Because almost every produce item is available to us at any time of year, our in winter-time culinary challenge is adapting our menus to emphasize those produce items harvested in our particular region and reduce consumption of food shipped in from far away.

Any home chef can make a dedicated effort and support the local farmers harvest by eating the food grown in our regions. No matter what region you live in, here are 10 tips – and sound reasons why it’s a good idea to eat from your region – as well as ideas to help guide you through the winter eating season.

1.  Eat lettuce-free salads.

Use hearty wintry fruits and vegetables like apples, pears and citrus fruits, beets, carrots, cabbage (white and purple) and kale to make lettuce-free salads. Toss cooked and/or raw vegetables with a vinaigrette dressing, add nuts, cheese, and dried fruit. Mix shredded raw cabbage, add a cooked grain, nuts, and dehydrated fruit for a textured winter salad. In the colder regions, add apples or pears. In the southeast, prepare citrus salads and top the fruit with cottage cheese and nuts.

2.  Utilize the old standards.

Utilize winter go-to foods like mushrooms, potatoes, onions, carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash and garlic. Add them to soups, stews and one-pot dishes for comforting cold-weather meals.

3.  Eat root-grown food.

Winter is the season for unearthing! Root vegetables like carrots, ginger, turnips, parsnips, beets, burdock, sweet potatoes, celeriac, daikon, horseradish, potatoes, fennel and radishes – these are winter-loving vegetables that are available in many regions throughout the winter.

4.  Eat sprouted food, micro greens, and dehydrated food.

Sprouting food offers an amazing variety of choices. We can sprout a variety of seeds, nuts and beans – all refreshing, nutritious and tasty. Sprouting can be accomplished in every region and it’s so rewarding to watch them grow. Farmers are taking to producing micro greens in the lean months to supplement their income and have more to offer their supportive followers. Micro greens are delicious on their own or add them like you would sprouted food. Include sprouted food and micro greens in lettuce-free salads and citrus salads and add them to sandwiches. Also, dehydrated food can be helpful to have on hand if you live in a heavy-snow region.

5.  Eat traditionally preserved food.

All those vegetables and fruits from your garden, farmers market, or CSA that are preserved, canned, frozen, or dried make wonderful winter-time ingredients, adding variety to your seasonal fresh fare. If you don’t get involved in preserving foods, buy canned, frozen, or dried items.

6.  Source greenhouse farmers.

This is a growing trend among farmers. Greenhouse-grown vegetables are perfectly acceptable because they are produced in a defined greenhouse using the highest standards.

7.  Eat a diet rich in beans, grains and nuts.

The selection and variety is vast, delicious, and nutritious. Add vegetables to beans and grains and turn them into a meal or side dish. Add nuts to your lettuce-free salads, sprouted food and micro greens.

8.  Emphasize homey, slow-cooking techniques.

What’s more welcoming than the aroma of stewing, braising, and roasting food? Winter is also a great time to use the crock pot and pressure-cooker.

9.  Reduce food waste by practicing kitchen management.

Be mindful of what’s in your pantry and rotate any food that sits in bins as well as what’s in the refrigerator, using it before it goes bad.

10.  Be adventurous! Try less familiar produce.

Populate the less familiar winter vegetables like, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, burdock, kohlrabi, celeriac, turnips and rutabagas. Sauté them, add them soups, stews and one-pot meals, or roast them.

Download these regional recipes for seasonal eating:

Kerry Dunnington can be reached through her website: www.kerrydunnington.com.

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