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Winter Veggies: How To Cook Them & How To Store Them

on November 11, 2012

Beets, Endive, Broccoli, Celery, Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, Kale, Parsnips, Turnips, and Winter Squash are just a few of the popular winter veggies that are approaching their peak season.  With many of the farmer markets moving inside during the colder months you can still find locally grown produce, or you can rest assure that the produce in the grocery store will be as equally fresh since it is being picked during the peak time.

Here are some tips to help keep your winter veggies fresher longer!

– Only clean, mature, and undamaged vegetables should be placed into storage. Quality cannot be improved after harvest; it can only be maintained. Injured, damaged or diseased produce loses moisture and decays more rapidly than healthy, undamaged produce.

-Winter Squash: Store only mature winter squashes, indicated by hardness, color and stem corking. Curing may help harden rinds, but is not recommended for acorn types. Most winter squashes store well for two to three months; a little less for acorns and a little more for hubbards.

-Proper curing after harvest is essential for high quality storage onions. Onions can be cured in or out of the field, with or without the use of forced air. Whatever method is chosen, necks must be completely dry before placing onions in storage. Under excellent storage conditions, onions can store 6-9 months, but 3-6 months is more typical.

-Carrots are prone to water loss, so relative humidity should be 98-100%. However, avoid conditions that allow free water to collect, as this will speed decay. Carrots can be stored for 3-5 months under good conditions.

-Tops should be removed close to the bulb, and any damaged roots removed. The storage temperature should be around 320F but not below, and relative humidity maintained near 95% to minimize shrinkage. Beets can be stored for several months under proper conditions.

Easy Cooking Ideas For Winter Veggies!

Root Vegetables-Anything potatoes can do, roots can do, too. Parsnips, turnips, rutabagas and celeriac are simply delicious mashed, hashed, whipped, roasted, baked, souped, stewed, chipped, fried and otherwise cooked up.  Just scrub the veggies, cut out any eyes (but feel free to leave the peel on), toss with oil or butter and roast whole or in pieces in a hot oven until a skewer slides in easily.
Broccoli-Raw broccoli requires good air circulation, so if you can’t consume it right away, mist the heads with water, wrap loosely with paper towels, and store in the fridge in a perforated plastic bag for up to three days.  Over-cooking broccoli robs it of its flavor, nutrients and color. Steam or stir-fry it until just tender, or, if it must be boiled, cook just to the point of tenderness, and then plunge into cold water to preserve the vibrant color.  Cut stalks and florets into similarly sized pieces to ensure uniform cooking times.

Kale- A light dose of frost can actually improve the flavor of kale, making it just a little sweeter -and the perfect winter green. It’s packed with antioxidants, folic acid and Vitamins A, B6 and C and can stand in for spinach in many recipes or be used raw in salads.  Select the youngest, freshest-looking kale you can find (it’s less bitter), and steer clear of mottled or yellowed leaves. It’ll keep in the fridge for about 3 days, but use it as soon as you can after buying.  Rip the leaves into bite sized pieces and boil in 2-to-1 ratio of water and vinegar until they turn bright green. Drain and serve. It’s also great sautéed in wine or stock with a little bit of chopped garlic or vinegar.

Squash- Smaller squash can be served right in the shell. Cut an acorn squash in half, remove seeds, and bake in a 375 degree F oven for 30 minutes. Mash a pat of butter and a little bit of brown sugar into the flesh with a fork and serve.  Separate removed seeds from the pulp, toss with olive oil and salt, and roast on a baking sheet in a 250 degree F oven until they’re lightly browned. They’re great as a snack or tossed into a salad.  Cut a squash in half, prick the flesh all over with a fork, and rub with oil. Roast it in a pan at 425 degrees F until the insides are soft and outside is lightly charred. Scoop out the insides and mash with butter, salt and cream for a satisfying side dish, or puree with stock for a hearty soup.



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