Get Cooking with Winter Produce!

Year-round gardeners, food co-op shoppers, and CSA members with a winter share know that there is often way more produce available in the middle of winter in cold climates than we used to see—and it’s not all being shipped long distances from Arizona, California, Florida, or south of the border. Many vegetables can be grown under protective […]

Year-round gardeners, food co-op shoppers, and CSA members with a winter share know that there is often way more produce available in the middle of winter in cold climates than we used to see—and it’s not all being shipped long distances from Arizona, California, Florida, or south of the border. Many vegetables can be grown under protective cover, and hardy root vegetables can be stored in the ground or harvested for storage.

Before farmers markets, chefs, and CSA farms began introducing us to less familiar winter vegetables, many home cooks had limited knowledge of what to do with rutabagas, turnips, celeriac, fennel, beets, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale and other cold-hardy greens. Recently, we’ve seen the rise of kale-mania, with the vegetable superstar finding its way into many processed foods and even leading to unconfirmed rumors of a worldwide kale shortage.

Thanks to farmers with winter CSA programs, such as David Zuckerman and Rachel Nevitt of Full Moon Farm in Hinesburg, Vermont, our winter vegetable repertoire is expanding. In mid-December, their 150-share, 23-week winter CSA was supplying members with fresh kale, Brussels sprouts, a spicy mustards mix (harvested from a high tunnel), and newly frozen broccoli, as well as potatoes, onions, carrots (orange or purple), beets (golden or red), winter squash, sweet potatoes, garlic, celeriac, turnips (purple top or golden), radishes (watermelon, black or daikon), rutabagas, and kohlrabi.

Surely eaters and cooks are grateful for such abundance; yet many of us are less well informed about how farmers are extending the growing season through farmers’ use of high tunnels and hoophouses as well as hardier seed varieties being researched by organizations like the Culinary Breeding Network.

When customers sign up for Full Moon Farm’s winter share, the website clearly advises: “You must cook or at least be open to the idea of it. If you don’t cook, juice or love raw vegetables, this share is not for you. But if you love to feed your family and friends steaming hot dishes of deliciousness, then a winter share is right for you.”

The 155-acre vegetable farm also offers organic pork and poultry shares. Winter shares extend to mid-March, but Zuckerman has little down time. Along with farming, he also is serving as a second-term state senator after 14 years as a state representative. In that time, he’s played an active, decade-long leading role in Vermont’s campaign in support of GMO labeling.

Delicata squash, courtesy of Wintergreen Farm, Noti, Oregon.

Delicata squash, courtesy of Wintergreen Farm, Noti, Oregon.

Bounty from the Box: The CSA Farm Cookbook will offer readers many dozens of recipes to bring to your table the deliciousness Rachel Nevitt refers to in her website comment about winter CSA shares. Below are two recipes for bringing out this deliciousness of winter produce.

Wilted Buttery Escarole with Red Cabbage and Shiitake Mushrooms

Serves 2 to 3

Luisa DePaiva, owner of Purple Rain Vineyard in Vancouver, Washington, is a fan of escarole, on which she comments: “Unless one is a foodie, the tendency for most shoppers is to purchase familiar produce. If this is your first time trying escarole, this recipe was created with you in mind. The sometimes bitter notes are mellowed by the butter. Young escarole leaves are tender enough to add to salads.”

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons chopped chives

4 roasted garlic cloves, chopped or 4 raw garlic cloves, minced

6 ounces escarole, coarsely chopped (about 4 inches long)

1 cup shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 cup red cabbage, thinly sliced

1 to 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  1. In a saucepan, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 2 tablespoons of the butter, chives, and the roasted garlic. Let the flavors infuse, while stirring, for about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the escarole, season it with salt and pepper, and stir until the leaves are wilted. Remove from heat and transfer to a serving platter. Keep warm.
  3. In another saucepan, add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter. Add the mushrooms and cook them until they are soft and slightly shriveled. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. To serve, arrange the raw red cabbage on the center of the escarole platter, topped by the mushrooms and ginger.

Cooking note: In the winter, I sometimes stir the minced ginger into the olive oil and butter before sautéing the mushrooms.

Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Serves 4

The recipe below is from chef Nicole Hoffmann, a graduate of the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon, who has run the school kitchen at Abernethy Elementary School in southeast Portland for over three years and teaches in its award-winning School Kitchen Garden program. She says that at Abernethy, the kids, before seeing Brussels sprouts in the cafeteria, have in some cases planted, harvested, and written papers about Brussels sprouts grown in the school garden. This super-simple recipe is easy enough for kids to make, and delicious for all ages.

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon olive oil

A large pinch of sea salt

1 pound Brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed, cut in half

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, olive oil, and salt. Then add the Brussels sprouts, stirring to coat them evenly. Place the sprouts in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the edges of the sprouts are crispy and insides are soft. Serve immediately.

And here is one more, featuring cauliflower and endive:

Roasted Cauliflower with Endive & Lemon

Serves 4

This is an elegant, restaurant-style side dish (or first course) that hails from Quinn’s Pub in Seattle, Washington. This popular gastropub offers food that aims to take bar food to the next level—of freshness, of sophistication, and of deliciousness.

½ large head cauliflower (about 1¾ pound whole)

3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 head Belgian endive

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon champagne or white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons butter

2 to 3 tablespoons chicken or vegetable stock

1½ tablespoons finely sliced fresh mint leaves

  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 385°F.
  2. Cut the cauliflower into medium florets, then cut the florets into thick slices. (They will vary in size, but the idea is to create some flat surfaces that will rest on the pan and caramelize nicely.) Toss the florets with 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, a few big pinches of salt, and several grinds of pepper. Spread them, flat sides down, on a heavy baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until they are tender and golden brown. Transfer the pieces to a plate and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, trim the Belgian endive and separate it into leaves. Rub the leaves with another tablespoon or so of the olive oil to coat the surfaces. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Place the leaves on the baking sheet that you used for the cauliflower and roast for 5 minutes, or until the leaves are slightly softened and just barely brown around the edges. Remove from the oven. Sprinkle the leaves with the lemon zest, lemon juice, and vinegar. Cover with foil to keep warm.
  4. To finish, heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat with the butter and chicken stock. Add the cauliflower pieces and cook, tossing to distribute the butter and stock, until the pan is dry.
  5. To finish, sprinkle the fresh mint over the endive leaves. Put the cauliflower into a shallow bowl and tuck the endive leaves onto and around it. Serve immediately.

— Adapted from Quinn’s Pub, Seattle, Washington, by Lisa Gordanier

About the photos: Top: Nikki, a Full Moon Farm employee, shows off just-harvested kale and collards. CSA members assemble their own shares on pickup day. They can choose which items to take from a bin. They can also choose from a box of grouped items, such as three pounds of onions and/or potatoes and they can take one variety of potatoes or a mix of them. Photo courtesy of Full Moon Farm, Inc. Second: Delicata squash, courtesy of Winter Green Farm, Noti, Oregon.

About the author: This week’s blog post comes from Martha Wagner, a Portland, Oregon-based food writer, gardener, and passionate advocate for sustainable living, wellness, and organic agriculture.

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