Winter Vegetables

Broccoli Rabe

Winter Vegetables

We all know that we should eat more vegetables throughout the year, but often times we think of winter vegetables as humdrum, which is actually not the case. These cold weather-loving vegetables are harvested during winter months and can be enjoyed in a variety of dishes.

Fennel: This sweet, anise-flavored vegetable has an edible bulb, stalk, leaves, and seeds. It is often used raw in salads or sautéed or braised in savory dishes.

Broccoli Rabe: A member of the mustard family, broccoli rabe has a bitter flavor, and both the leaves and the broccoli-like stems are edible.

Green Onions: Also known as scallions, these premature onions have a less intense flavor than large bulb onions and are often used in raw form.

White Mushrooms: These cultivated mushrooms vary in size from button to jumbo and deliver better flavor when sautéed or grilled. To clean mushrooms, don’t soak them in water. Instead wipe them with a damp paper towel.

Cremini Mushrooms: These baby portobellos have an earthy flavor and are a wonderful accompaniment to beef and vegetable dishes.

Brussels Sprouts: These small cabbages range from 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Choose sprouts that are bright green.

Purple Potatoes: These pretty potatoes are dense in texture and can be prepared the same as white potatoes.

Baking Potatoes: Also known as Russet potatoes, these large spuds are great for baking and making French fries.

Porcini Mushrooms: These highly prized mushrooms have a meaty texture and nutty flavor.

Shitake Mushrooms: Popular in Asian cuisine, these mushrooms have a meaty texture. The stems can be tough and are often removed.

Red Potatoes: These firm and round potatoes have a waxy flesh and less starch than baking potatoes, so they hold their shape when cooked.

Yukon Gold Potatoes: These buttery-fleshed potatoes are ideal for making mashed potatoes.

Sugar Snap Peas: These edible pods and peas are a cross between the English pea and the snow pea. Their crisp texture and sweet flavor can be enjoyed raw or cooked to deliver a snap of flavor.

Beets: These jewel-toned root vegetables range in color from garnet red to vibrant yellow. You may want to wear gloves when cutting beets, as the juice can stain.

Bush Beans: Also known as string beans, bush beans have an edible pea and pod. When purchasing these beans, look for ones that are bright green and free of dark spots.

Garlic: This bulb adds onion-like flavor and healthful nutrition to many savory dishes. Purchase bulbs that are plump and firm and make sure that the skin is unbroken.

Cauliflower: This member of the cabbage family ranges in color from white to green to purple and is available in florets or as a large head. 

Broccoli: This cruciferous vegetable has tight clusters and edible stems. It can be bought as pre-cut florets or as a large head.

Onions: These roots are popular for cooking in most any dish and are available in several varieties. Vidalia onions are the sweetest, while the while and Spanish varieties offer a more pungent taste. Red onions are often eaten raw because they can lose their bright color during cooking. 

Radish: This root vegetable from a mustard plant ranges in color from white to red to purple. It has a crisp texture and peppery flavor and can be used in salads or as crudités for dips. 

Turnip: This white-fleshed root vegetable is ideal for soups and is at its peak from October to March. Small turnips have a sweeter, more delicate flavor than larger ones.

Rutabaga: This vegetable looks like a large turnip and has a pale yellow flesh and sweeter flavor than turnips.

Artichoke: Also known as the bud of the thistle plant, artichokes have tough leaves, but a soft flesh, and tender heart after being cooked. Fresh artichokes should be dark green with closed heads.

Asparagus: This popular vegetable is grown in sandy soil. When purchasing, look for stalks that are firm and bright green. Fatter stalks usually yield a more tender cooked product.

Carrot: This vitamin A all-star is delightful raw or cooked. Choose carrots that are firm and smooth and show no signs of cracks.

Leek: This member of the onion family has a mild flavor and is often used to flavor soups. Look for leeks with white necks and dark green leaves and be sure to wash them thoroughly to remove sand.

Squash: Winter squash are harvested in the mature fruit stage, when the outer skins have developed into tough rinds. They are ideal for many hearty stews and side dishes. Many recipes call for peeled, cubed squash. Winter squash has a tough skin that is often difficult to cut through. Pierce the squash a few times with a fork and microwave on high at 2 minute intervals until the squash is easy to cut. You can then safely cut the squash into the shape you need.

Butternut Squash: This sweet squash is pear-shaped and typically weighs 2 to 3 pounds. It has a smooth tan skin and bright orange flesh and will keep for months in a cool, dry place. It can be baked, steamed, or sautéed.

Cushaw Squash: An heirloom winter squash, also known as sweet potato squash, cushaw is often used similarly to pumpkin in cooking. It is commonly used in Creole and Cajun cuisine.

Buttercup Squash: This turban squash is characterized by bumps and a “turban” on the blossom end of the squash. It comes in a range of sizes and is typically used for ornamental purposes, but it may be baked, steamed, or sautéed.

Pumpkin: This symbol of Halloween and pie staple for several holiday tables has many varieties. Smaller pumpkins tend to have more tender flesh. Pureed pumpkin is available year-round, of course, in canned form.

Sweet Potato: This sweet spud comes in two main varieties. The pale yellow-fleshed sweet potato is not as sweet as the darker-fleshed and has a dry texture when cooked. The darker, orange-fleshed variety is very moist in texture. Canned sweet potatoes are also available. Store fresh potatoes 3 to 4 weeks in a dark, dry area.

Acorn Squash: This sweet and buttery oval-shaped winter squash is dark green and has yellow flesh. It can be baked or boiled and enjoyed in soups or stand alone as a fiber-filled side dish.

Ambercup Squash: This relative of the butternut squash resembles a small pumpkin with its bright orange skin and flesh. It has a sweet flavor and is available from June to November.

Spaghetti Squash: The flesh of this oblong yellow squash separates into spaghetti-like strands when cooked. It is low in calories and high in vitamins and can be served with sauce as a healthy substitute to pasta.

© Victoria Hart Glavin



    Victoria has been cooking and writing recipes since she was a a young girl. Originally from Nebraska, her appreciation for culinary technique took off when she moved to Lyon, France. Victoria is published in Hearst Newspapers, Greenwich Free Press, New Canaanite, and more.

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