Garlic and Onions
In addition to adding zesty flavor to recipes, there is abundant evidence that garlic and onions confer many health benefits. Garlic contains anti-bacterial and anti-viral compounds that protect against colds and flu, antioxidants that help fight cancer, and components that lower cholesterol, leading to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Onions have many of the same disease-fighting compounds as garlic, and both are superb additions to a winter diet.
A member of the carrot family, long, narrow parsnips resemble carrots in shape, but are white to pale yellow in color. They have a distinctive flavor and become very sweet if harvested after the first frost or stored at temperatures near 32 degrees F (0 degrees C). Parsnips should be peeled before cooking. They can be used in the same way as carrots, and are good as a side dish, added to soups, stews, or roasted with other vegetables.
Whether boiled, baked, mashed or fried, potatoes are a favorite comfort food, and provide plenty of warmth and nourishment in cold weather. They contain high levels of vitamins A and C, several B vitamins, and potassium, calcium, phosphorus and iron. To obtain maximum nutritional value, leave the skins on, but avoid eating potatoes with green skins, because they can be toxic.
Sweet potatoes are an exceptionally nutritious vegetable. They are rich in vitamins A and C, manganese, copper, potassium and dietary fiber. They should be stored in a cool place, but not refrigerated. Sweet potatoes can be prepared in many of the same ways as white potatoes, and are also delicious in pies and other desserts.
While less popular than some of the other root vegetables, turnips are well worth giving a try. Turnips contain high amounts of vitamins K and A, as well as vitamin C, manganese, calcium and folate. Choose small to medium sized turnips with smooth skins, heavy for their size and not dried out. Large turnips tend to be woody and bitter. They should be stored in the refrigerator and used within one week.
Small tender turnips can be eaten raw, in salads or with dips. Turnips can be steamed, sauteed, baked or boiled. It is not necessary to peel small, tender turnips, but older, larger ones should be peeled. Larger turnips should be cut up into pieces to decrease cooking time. If boiling turnips, change the water two or three times during cooking, or boil a potato along with them to prevent them from becoming bitter.
While summer may be salad season, there is no need to give up fresh leafy greens for winter. Greens that are in season during the winter include kale, Swiss chard, spinach, collards, and turnip, beet and mustard greens. All of these winter greens are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and dietary fiber. They can be prepared by steaming and served as a simple side dish, or can be added to boost the nutritional value of soups, stews, and many other recipes.
Winter squash is an excellent low-calorie vegetable that is high in vitamins and other essential nutrients. There are many varieties of winter squash, including acorn, butternut, hubbard and spaghetti squash. Winter squash stores well and can be prepared in numerous ways, from baking and steaming to adding to soups and stews.