Despite our best intentions to eat a wide variety of vegetables for both our health and enjoyment, many of us are wary about preparing and consuming vegetables that we aren’t familiar with. While spring and summer bring loads of fresh, local, and familiar fare such as cucumbers, peas, corn, asparagus, tomatoes, and bell peppers; the fall and winter seasons boast much different mainstays. Kale, squash, parsnips, rutabagas, and cabbage are a few veggies that tend to be ignored, even if they are fresh, local, and intensely flavourful!
Kale has been grown for over 2000 years, and has always been noted for its ability to grow well even in frosty, frigid temperatures. Its peak season is December through to February, so it’s an ideal veggie to plant in October or November.
It’s also fairly versatile.
While kale chips are the new kid on the block of late. It’s also great for in smoothies, soups and salads. I use it in quesadillas, too. Its flavour is mild, but nutritional content is SUPER high.
At just 36 calories per cooked cup and rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and manganese, Kale rocks. It’s also a great source of B vitamins, as well as being high in calcium, copper, iron, lutein and zeaxanthin.”
There are also different varieties, each with a subtly different look and taste. Aside from the frilly (curly) green kale that most of us are picturing in our heads right now, there is also flat-leaf black kale, red-Russian kale, baby kale, and more.
For a kale recipe, click HERE.
“Squash” can refer to anything from pumpkin to zucchini to spaghetti squash. There are a ZILLION varieties. Ok, maybe not that many, but its close. Because of this, different types of squash have different peak seasons. That being said, most of them are the best to harvest in autumn. (October to December.)
When most people think of squash, they think of pumpkins. But pumpkins are not eaten nearly as much as butternut squash. Butternut squash makes a great filling for pasta, and is fantastic in soups.
So let’s just focus on that.
Butternut squash has an impressive nutritional profile. Just one cup of baked butternut squash has almost 500% of your daily recommended dose of vitamin A. Holy crap, right? It also has 52% of your vitamin C, and is relatively low in calories. (Just 82 per one cooked cup!)
For a butternut squash recipe, click HERE.
Most people I talk to have no idea what a parsnip or what a rutabaga (the next veggie) looks like. Let’s change that! Parsnips look like ivory-coloured carrots. Actually, they look almost exactly like mini daikon, but that veggie is not on our list. Parsnips grow best in fall and winter, and like kale, can withstand freezing temperatures and frosty soil. They take a long time to mature, so I recommend planting in September if you want them for January.
I am literally eating parsnips as I write this. (In homemade soup.) They have a nutty flavour, and I like them best in soups and stews.
Nutritionally speaking, they are pretty good, but not as crazy awesome as kale. Or Butternut squash. One cooked parsnip has about 110 calories in it, and 6 grams of fibre. It also has 35% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C, and is a good source of folate and manganese.
For a parsnip recipe, click HERE.
“A rutawhata?” (My husband’s response to me asking him what he thinks a rutabaga is.) These funny looking veggies are round and white and pink/purple. They are a cross between cabbage and a turnip, and their peak season runs from October to February.
Honestly, the only thing I put a rutabaga in is soup. But you can cook and mash them like potatoes, grill them and add to salads, and more. I need to be a little more experimental myself, when it comes to these.
As far as their nutritional profile goes? Not unlike a carrot, a good portion of its caloric content comes from sugar. But it’s still a vegetable—naturally occurring sugars are okay in my books. One cup of cooked rutabaga contains over half your recommended daily intake of vitamin C, 3 grams of fibre, and 2 grams of protein. It is also a great source of thiamin, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.
For a rutabaga recipe, click HERE.
I freaking love cabbage. And it loves me. (Mostly.) The peak season for cabbage is autumn. Interesting little fact: cooking cabbage in an aluminum pot causes discoloration and taste alterations. So don’t do that! 😉
There are four main varieties that you see at the supermarket, though there are probably more. Mainly, there’s green cabbage, red cabbage, Chinese cabbage, and savoy cabbage. They are all great for different dishes.
I actually use cabbage a lot. I make a fast and easy vegan cabbage roll casserole, I use it for vegan tacos, I put red cabbage in my veggie lasagne sometimes, and I use it for a cabbage/kale salad that I love to make. My fridge usually has some cabbage in there somewhere.
Nutritionally speaking, cabbage is super low in calories, and high in vitamin C. It’s also high in thiamin, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, and an excellent source of fiber, vitamin K, vitamin B6, folate and manganese. Cabbage has a bad rap for causing gas, but I find that the more you eat it, the better your system can get used to it and that whole gas bit goes away. It’s a crazy healthy veggie, and should not be shunned!
For a great cabbage recipe, click HERE
And that’s it, folks! There are SO many winter vegetables that most of us overlook, even when they’re readily available at your local grocery store and/or farmer’s markets. It’s a shame to pass them by! The more variety of veggies that you incorporate into your diet, the better your body can extract and use the various nutrients made available to it. So go buy something new and try a new recipe, too.