Just picked produce

Winter Fresh

If you don't live in a warm climate, you may think winter means a dearth of fresh veggies and fruit. Not true! Just-picked produce may be easier to find than you think.

If you don’t live in a warm climate, you may think winter means a dearth of fresh vegetables and fruit. Not true! Though the ground may be frozen in some places, you can still find produce in farmers’ markets or in the “locally grown” section of your grocery store.

Part of the reason for a bounty of fresh stuff in winter has to do with increasing demand: “More and more people are trying to buy locally or regionally—and more healthfully—which has prompted farmers to produce more food later into the season,” explains Hannah Mellion, who works on food distribution programs for Farm Fresh Rhode Island, a group that organizes year-round marketplaces and aims to increase access to fresh food. Thanks to new practices, farmers today can grow fruits and vegetables that are harvested through the fall and early winter and stand up to cold storage well. Another reason the bounty continues even after the ground is frozen in great swaths of the country is the proliferation of greenhouses and hoop houses (smaller greenhouses that extend the growing season by about three months). These structures allow even fragile crops (think herbs and arugula) to be grown in cooler temperatures.

And while you are buying all that locally grown produce, don’t forget that milk, meat, cheese, and eggs are also typically available from farms in your area. Most grocers often identify these items with highly visible signage, but if you’re not sure of a product’s origin, simply ask a clerk for the information, says Mellion.

Here’s a sampling of what you might find around the country in the winter.

Vegetable bounty: Winter is prime time for cold-loving gourds like butternut squash and pumpkins; root vegetables like celeriac, carrots, and turnips; and brassicas like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale. You’ll also find, depending on where you live, beets, cauliflower, Jerusalem artichokes/sunchokes and fresh herbs and lettuces from greenhouses.

Fruit finds: Winter is the best time to enjoy the flavors of citrus fruits, which is why your market overflows with oranges, lemons, and grapefruit in winter, especially in the South and West. Other, less familiar fruits found in winter include pomelos, blood oranges, kumquats, kiwifruit, and Meyer lemons. Pears and apples, which grow late into the fall in temperate parts of the country, tolerate cold storage well for winter too.

For more information on what’s fresh in your area this winter, go to Fieldtoplate.com and find your state’s listing.

Finding Farmers’ Markets

Not sure where to find your closest farm-fresh goods? Try these sites:

Find farmers’ markets, family farms, and sources of sustainably grown food. LocalHarvest

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s AMS maintains a searchable list of local farmers markets, with information on available produce and more. USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)

This site is all about connecting people who grow food with people who want to eat it. Its goal: to make local food as common in American kitchens as frozen pizza. FarmersMarket