Seasonal Winter Foods for Sustainable Living

pinto beans Photos courtesy (usda.gov)
pinto beans Photo by Scott Bauer. Courtesy (USDA.gov)

Living with the Seasons means living in harmony and balance. Eating food in season helps to accomplish that goal. I created this chart of seasonal winter foods including vegetables, fruits, nuts, meat and fish to help me eat seasonally and locally. I decided to share it with you because I couldn’t find a comprehensive chart on the Internet and assumed you couldn’t either.

Winter Food in Northeast North America

These foods are in season in North American climates like mine with cool to cold winters and warm summers. When people say food is in season it means that you are eating a food in the season it grows in your local area.

In cold climates such as the Northeast, food is still grown in greenhouses. In winter lettuces and leafy greens are grown in local greenhouses. Mushrooms are grown and harvested. Nuts ripen in autumn and were collected, cured, and  sold in grocery stores. Dry beans and root crops are stored and sold.

I don’t find waiting until summer for tomatoes and sweet corn difficult. Food tastes the best in  I look forward to the taste of winter carrots, mushrooms, and collard greens touched by frosts.

If you would like to learn how to grow food that you can harvest in your kitchen garden throughout the autumn and winter, Eliot Coleman’s book, Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables From Your Home Garden ALL Year Long (Amazon affiliate link; see book on Amazon.com)

A spring vegetable plot in my kitchen garden.
A spring vegetable plot in my kitchen garden.

I draw from my own experience as the ‘volunteer’ field hand in my grandparents’ garden, in my own kitchen garden, hanging out in farmer’s markets, and fill-in information from a great book, The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs.  Karen Page who wrote this book also wrote another that will probably be fantastic also, The Vegetarian Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity with Vegetables, Fruits, Grains, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds, and More, Based on the Wisdom of Leading American Chefs.

The wonderful thing about Ms. Page’s books is they are full of lists of flavors that go together and complement each other. This is great for a ‘pantry cook’ like me who buys food to restock my pantry (freezer, refrigerator) and then decides to cook from what I have on hand. From the Flavor Bible I learned to add nutmeg to my spinach dishes. Delicious.

Carrots grown in my kitchen garden.
Carrots grown in my kitchen garden.

My Food Upbringing

My maternal grandparents (originally farmers from South Carolina) rented farmland in Eagleville, Pa, the whole time I was growing up and well in my adult years. We grew most of the vegetables our families ate, picked fruit, and ‘put food by’  in the freezer, and by drying and canning.

My grandfather hunted and fished. My grandmother gardened and fished. Game meats were a staple on our tables along with the hogs my grandfather bought from a local hog farmer and the ducks, goats and chickens he raised himself.

You get to reap the benefits of the long summer mornings I spent on my hands and knees picking string beans and afternoons shucking corn. I will post a seasonal food list at the beginning of each season this year. Links to those posts are at the bottom of this page. Bon Appétit!

Winter Seasonal Food List

Vegetables, Legumes, Grains, Seeds and Nuts

  • beans, lentils (dried)
  • broccoli
  • brussel sprouts
  • cabbage
  • grains (dried)
  • greens, winter (kale, collards, chard, spinach)
  • mushrooms, “wild”
  • nuts (chestnuts, walnuts, pecans)
  • potatoes
  • root vegetables  (carrots, parsnips, yams, turnips, etc.)
  • squashes, winter (acorn, pumpkin, butternut, etc. the hard skin ones that can be stored in a root cellar)
  • sunchoke (jerusalem artichoke)
  • canned, dried and frozen vegetables you bought in the summer and fall for winter meals

Fruits

Citrus foods are ‘in season’ in Florida and California during the winter months.

  • bananas, plantains
  • citrus fruits (lemons, grapefruits, limes, tangerines, mandarin oranges)
  • dates
  • dried fruits
  • pears
  • passion fruit
  • canned, dried and frozen fruits you bought in summer and fall to eat in the winter meals

Meat/Fish

  • beef
  • game meats (venison, etc.)
  • shellfish (lobster, mussels, etc.)
  • squid
  • canned, dried and frozen meats you bought, hunted, fished in the fall and stored to eat for winter meals

The Flavors of Winter

  • Deep rich flavors like chocolate, caramel, maple syrup and honey
  • Full-bodied red wines like merlot, bordeaux, zinfandels and cabernet sauvignon
  • Rich white wines like chardonnays (oaked), pinot gris, riesling
  • Cooking methods like slow-cooking, roasting, stewing, braising, simmering, baking and making soups
  • Warming spices like black pepper, ground cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and cayenne

Seasonal foods for spring
Seasonal foods for summer
Seasonal foods for Winter
Seasonal Rounds: Charting Living In Harmony with the Land
How to Create a Seasonal Round – Part 2

 

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