When you’re at the farmers’ market, it’s all about what’s in season. Choosing from items harvested at their peak is your sure bet for fabulous flavor and freshness.
Kiwifruit, those fuzzy little fruits with the big flavor and great nutritional value, are ripe and ready. Cut and scoop a spoonful for a handy snack or slice the glistening green fruit over Pavlova for a dessert that’s as refreshing as it is beautiful. Brussel sprouts come forward for holiday salads and side dishes. Whole stalks dotted with these “little cabbages” are as much a novelty as they are a convenience: just cut them off as needed. If you buy fresh and do not overcook, even naysayers might give them a thumbs-up! Also harvested in December: citrus, rutabaga, broccoli rabe.
Keep digging deep for your favorite vegetables. Many best choices in this season are vegetables harvested from below ground or just above it. Carrots are ubiquitous but not above scrutiny: They should be sweet, juicy, and crunchy, as should celery root. Both are flavor boosters when used in winter salads, soups, and stews. Blood oranges are here for their short season, so don’t miss your chance to indulge. Also harvested in January: fennel, celery, and parsnips.
Collard greens may be available year round but they have the best flavor and texture during these cooler months. Lovers of local asparagus make first sightings of the tasty spears at the market, and grapefruit take their share of the citrus displays. Look for bunches of lemongrass, which prove to be multi functional in the kitchen. The lower 4 to 6 inches of each stalk is the least fibrous and mildest tasting, while tougher upper portions may be chopped and added to marinades, bundled and added to stews and stocks, or used to make herbal teas. Also harvested in February: strawberries, radishes, potatoes, broccoli.