Winter Produce: What to Eat Now

Peruse winter's best produce - we guarantee you'll fall in love with its leafy greens, crimson pomegranates and ample orange (citrus and sweet potatoes).
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1. Broccoli rabe.

An Italian broccoli variety, brococoli rabe produces thin stalks with vibrant green leaves and sparser tops than the large heads of its common cousin. It has an appealing bitterness that lends itself to quick sautes with sausage links, garlic and a touch of heat from red pepper flakes.

SELECT: Look for bright green leaves, firm stalks and relatively few buds or open flowers. Avoid bunches with yellowed leaves and dry stalks.

STORE: Remove the wire twist or rubber band that secures the bundle, roll up in dry paper towel and store in a loosely sealed plastic bag in refrigerator crisper drawer for up to 5 days.

EAT: Cook as you would broccoli: sauteed, steamed, stir-fried or braised. To serve cold in salads, blanch first to lessen the naturally bitter flavor.

See alsoApple Dijon Salmon with Roasted Broccoli Rabe.

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2. Blood Oranges

Explore new citrus fruits like Cara Cara and Moro (Blood) oranges for fresh snacks, mixed into salads or juiced to add flavor to a sauce. Try Fairchild tangerines and Satsuma or Royal Mandarins for snacking or to add to salads. For an unexpected treat, try tangelos. A cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine, tangelos boast a juicy, sweetly tart and mild flavor.

SELECT: Heavy fruits with shiny, smooth skins and no bruising. Tenderness when squeezed indicates juiciness.

STORE: In refrigerator in crisper for up to 2 weeks. Wash skins before cutting or zesting.

EAT: Peel and eat out of hand, or cut into segments and add to salads and stir-frys. Use fresh squeezed juice in marinades or sauces.

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3. Kale

Lacinato or Tuscan Kale is a member of the cabbage family (Brassica). The low-calorie, high-fiber green is related to broccoli, collard greens and cauliflower, but forms either flat or frilly leaves rather than a budding head.

SELECT: Sturdy and firm bunches with deep colored leaves and hardy, fresh-looking stems.

STORE: Remove wire wrap or rubber band that secures the bundle, roll up in dry paper towel and store in a loosely sealed plastic bag in refrigerator crisper drawer for up to 5 days. Wash just before serving to minimize spoilage.

EAT: Chop and use as a delicious alternative to spinach in soups, stews, sautes, curries, and frittatas. Pairs well with garlic, bell peppers, chile peppers, onions and tomatoes.

See also3 Ways with Chard and Kale.

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4. Pomegranates

Pomegranates have long been tied to Greek mythology and the story of Persephone, daughter of Demeter, the goddess of the grains and the harvest. Its brilliant-colored seeds contain anthocyanins and tannins, antioxidants that boost your levels of paraoxonase, an enzyme that may work to break down LDL, or "bad" cholesterol.

SELECT: Large fruits that feel heavy for their size, with smooth, shiny, blemish-free skin. Some stores sell fresh pomegranate arils already extracted from the fruit.

STORE: Store in a cool, dark place for up to a month. To refrigerate, extract arils and store them in a sealed container for up to 1 week.

EAT: Slice top from fruit to expose arils, then score the skin by slicing it from top to bottom in quarters, exposing the white flesh. Submerge in a bowl of cool water and use your fingers to pry sections apart; scoop out arils and drain. Eat seeds as salad toppings or juice them for concentrated pomegranate juice.

See alsoHomemade Pomegranate Molasses.

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5. Sweet Potatoes

Orange-hued sweet potatoes, especially the darker varieties (such as Garnet or Beauregard), are often mislabeled as yams, which are thick, starchy tubers native to Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. The darker varieties are much higher in beta-carotene than the lighter sweet potatoes, so opt for them in your seasonal cooking.

SELECT: Firm, heavy potatoes with smooth, bruise-free skin. Choose ones that are uniform in size for even cooking.

STORE: Loosely sealed in a paper bag in a cool, dark place for up to 2 weeks.

EAT: Boiled and mashed to accompany poultry or pork, cubed and sauteed with onions, garlic, fresh ginger and herbs, or sliced into wedges and baked with olive oil and sea salt.

See also7 Savory Sweet Potato Sides.