Winter has officially arrived, and with it comes crisp mornings and cool nights. It is a time of year I really enjoy as the crisp air is so refreshing for our bodies and minds. And most importantly the cooler weather allows us to enjoy heartier meals, warm puddings and red wine. The change of season marks a change in the fruits and vegetables that are available for us to enjoy. In-season winter fruit and vegetables such as citrus, rhubarb, pears and apples are at their prime right now and can be enjoyed in the following ways…
Citrus is perhaps the king of winter fruit and presents itself in a variety of guises such as oranges, lemons, limes, mandarins, and grapefruit. Citrus is heralded for its vitamin C, most of which is contained in the peel and pith, so I encourage you to include the zest in your baking or combine it with parsley and garlic to make a simple gremolata that will lift the flavours of any winter stew.
Mandarins are delicious peeled and eaten as they are. However, they make a lovely winter juice, and the zest of a mandarin will add another dimension to your baking.
Rhubarb is divine roasted with some sugar and the juice and zest of an orange. Simply take a bunch of rhubarb and cut each stalk into 5cm pieces and lay them in a roasting dish. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup sugar and moisten with the juice and zest of one orange. For some warmth, you could add some slices of fresh ginger or a stick of cinnamon. Cover the dish with foil and bake in a preheated 180C oven for 10 minutes, then remove the foil and gently stir. Return to the oven for a further 5 minutes or until tender but still holding its shape. Serve with thick cream or yoghurt, or spoon over your morning porridge.
Rhubarb’s tartness lends itself to savoury dishes too. Next time you are roasting a joint of pork, stew some rhubarb and apple together to serve alongside.
Pears arrive in an assortment of varieties during the winter months. The moody beurre bosc pear is fantastic for poaching as it holds its shape so well. The William variety is the all-rounder – leave it in the fruit bowl to ripen and you will be rewarded with a sweet and juicy treat with just the right amount of crunch.
For a savoury twist, add some finely sliced pear to a peppery rocket salad, add some shaved parmesan and dress simply with olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Just delicious!
The petite corella pear works beautifully on a cheese platter. Slice thinly and enjoy with a ripe Camembert or a tangy blue … pear and cheese are a match made in heaven.
Apples are at their best right now. Try to buy from a reputable source to ensure freshness and quality. Stanthorpe is our closest apple-growing area, a 3-hour drive away. Keep your eye out at the local markets for apples from this area – in this way you will be eating as locally and seasonally as possible.
In April, I was lucky enough to attend a Food Photography Workshop at a gorgeous farm near Lithgow. There the apple trees were laden with fruit and we had a lovely time styling and photographing the fruit. Turn these winter beauties into comforting apple crumble muffins for morning tea, or a delicious apple pie using a favourite family recipe.
I just love in-season winter fruit and vegetables for their colour and nourishing qualities. Many winter veggies are root vegetables, meaning they grow beneath the soil – think carrots, beetroot, celeriac, parsnips and potatoes to name a few – reminding us that Winter is a time to turn inward, to hibernate and slow down. Our days are shorter, encouraging us to spend time indoors and rest a little more.
I love to roast a big ol’ tray of mixed winter vegetables with rosemary, garlic and thyme and a generous slug of olive oil to protect and lubricate the vegetables while they cook. These can be served alongside your chosen meat or turned into a delicious vegetable tart. Winter vegetables really are versatile and offer us the nourishment we need at this time of year.
Although many of us don’t like the cold I encourage you to rug up and enjoy walks along the beach or around your neighbourhood. I find the clear air makes everything look sharper – the green of the trees is more green and the blue of the sky bluer. Take the time to cook slower dishes, allowing the heat from the oven to warm your home. For soon enough the warmth of Spring will be upon us.
Thank you for stopping by and reading my post about in-season winter fruit and vegetables. I hope you feel inspired to take a walk in the fresh air, then return home to transform your winter produce into heartwarming, delicious dishes for family and friends. Until next time …