What’s in Season?

By Barbara Kobsar

Produce harvested at its peak is your sure bet for flavor and freshness.

November

Broccoli and its cabbage relatives, like Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, and collards, thrive in the cool season at local farms. Broccoli, the Italian member of the family, was introduced to the United States in the 1920s by the D’Arrigo brothers, who farmed in the San Jose area. Nutritionally rich, this brassica is usually all green, but there are some purple- or white-budded varieties, which all taste pretty much the same. Showiest of them all, with its large chartreuse-colored florets that grow in a spiraling conical head, is the delicate-flavored Romanesco broccoli (considered by some to be a cauliflower). Broccoli raab (aka rapini, broccoli de raab, cimi de rapa, or rabe) is similar to broccoli in appearance but is actually the flower shoot of a type of turnip.

December

A new “king of vegetables” has been crowned, and it’s kohlrabi! This baseball-size, globe-shaped member of the cabbage family looks more like a root vegetable than a head of cabbage, and in fact the globe is actually an enlarged portion of the plant’s stem that forms just above ground and produces thinner, leaf-topped stems that grow out in all directions. Kohlrabi is packed with nutrition and offers versatility in the kitchen, since all parts—bulb, stem, and leaves—are edible raw or cooked. The sweet, crisp flesh of the bulb offers hints of radish, while the thinner stems and leaves taste more like cabbage.

When the fuzzy, brown, egg-shaped kiwifruit arrive at the farmers’ market, we run to cut them open and scoop out that wonderful explosion of juicy strawberry-pineapple-plum flavor punctuated with crunchy seeds. The fruit is native to the Yangtze Valley, where it’s called míhóutáo. English speakers originally dubbed it “Chinese gooseberry,” but when the vines were transplanted from China to New Zealand in the early 1900s, and then to California in the mid ‘60s, marketers rebranded it as kiwifruit. (Try our Kiwi Tart recipe.)

January

Soup’s on, and it’s likely to be full of hearty, nutritious, and flavorful leafy winter greens such as kale, collards, mustard greens, and dandelion greens. Kale and collard greens are non-heading members of the cabbage family, so it’s important to buy them fresh and young before they become woody and too-strongly flavored. Tangy dandelion leaves are best used when young and tender as well. Mustard greens look like a bright and frilly version of kale, but they offer quite a pungent mustard flavor. 

Recipe by Barbara Kobsar | Illustration by Caroline Gould

A sweet shortbread crust, citrus curd cream cheese filling, and sliced kiwifruit make this a winter delight! Try it with strawberries when they are back in season.  
Serves 8–10

For shortbread crust
1 cup butter, room temperature
½ cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, cream together butter, sugar, and cornstarch until smooth. With a wooden spoon (or paddle of a stand mixer), stir in flour a little at a time until mixture is too stiff to work with the spoon. Turn onto a floured board and knead lightly. Draw in flour while kneading until dough just begins to crack.

Press dough into the bottom and sides of one 10-inch or three 4-inch tart pans (about ¼-inch thickness). Place tart pans on cookie sheet and bake until lightly browned, 15–18 minutes for 10-inch tart or 8–10 minutes for 4-inch. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.

For filling and topping:
4–6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
¾ cup lemon or lime curd
3–5 kiwifruit, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons apricot, pear, or peach jam or pomegranate jelly (optional)

Whip together cream cheese and citrus curd until fluffy. Spread over cooled crust. Top with kiwifruit slices.

Optional: Warm jam or jelly and brush over top of fruit.

Veteran journalist Barbara Kobsar has authored two cookbooks focusing on traditional home-cooked meals using local produce. You’ll find her each week at the Walnut Creek Farmers’ Market selling her Cottage Kitchen jams and jellies made from farmers’ market produce.

Berkeley-based illustrator and musician Caroline H. Gould is a transplant from Brooklyn, New York. She is especially fond of illustrating desserts. carolinehgould.com