Colorful grapefruit, oranges, sweet potatoes and winter squash add flavor and nutrients to winter dishes. Round out a meal with a side of vitamin-rich winter squash or sweet potatoes. For a healthy snack or dessert, grab a juicy orange or grapefruit. This handy guide offers information on picking the best winter produce and what it offers nutritionally.
Sweet, tart and tangy, grapefruit are in their prime during the winter. White grapefruit, yellow-skinned with pale buff to yellow flesh, are bittersweet with a pleasant acidity, but may not be suited to all tastes. Red blush or ruby varieties, with light pink to deep red flesh, are naturally sweeter and juicier.
• What You Get: Grapefruit are an excellent source of vitamins A and C. They also have some fiber and folate. Pink and red varieties also contain some of the antioxidant lycopene.
• Shopping Tips: Look for richly colored grapefruit with smooth, firm skin free of blemishes. Choose fruit that yield only slightly to firm hand pressure.
• Storage Tip: Grapefruit can be stored at room temperature for 2 to 4 weeks or in the refrigerator for 6 to 8 weeks.
Most varieties of oranges are available year-round, but they’re at their best in the winter. To get the most out of your orange, grate the zest to add a splash of flavor and color to your dishes.
• What You Get: Oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C, as well as a good source of fiber and folate.
• Shopping Tips: Look for richly colored oranges with smooth, firm skin free of blemishes and scars. A little bit of green is OK and does not necessarily indicate an immature fruit. Choose fruit that yield only slightly to firm hand pressure.
• Storage Tip: Oranges can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.
A nutritional powerhouse, the sweet potato is only distantly related to the potato. And don’t call it a yam—it’s not even the same species!
• What You Get: A 4-ounce serving of sweet potato (about 1/2 cup) is an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C, and it supplies a good amount of potassium and fiber.
• Shopping Tips: Choose sweet potatoes with taut, papery skins and tapered ends. The intensity of the orange color varies in different varieties of sweet potato—darker colors are higher in beneficial carotenoids.
• Storage Tips: Sweet potatoes should never be refrigerated. Store them in a cool, dark place with good air circulation, to discourage softening, sprouting and spoiling. If potatoes begin to sprout during storage but are still firm, remove the sprouts and any eyes that are beginning to sprout before eating. Properly stored, sweet potatoes will keep 10 to 12 weeks.
Squash is great for hearty meals to get you through winter’s chill. Varieties like acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash boast unique flavors that work well in recipes from soups and hearty sides to filling main dishes and sweet seasonal desserts.
• What You Get: Winter squash is high in fiber, an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and also provides vitamin B6, folate, vitamin K and potassium.
• Shopping Tips: Choose very hard squash: press firmly all over to make sure the rind isn’t soft (a sign of immaturity or improper storage.) During harvest season, look for vivid colors—the skin color should not look washed out. Later in the year, after the squash has been stored, the skin color may fade as the flesh becomes sweeter. Regardless of the season, the skin should not look shiny—a sign that it’s either underripe or that it has been waxed, possibly masking bad quality. Choose squash with a remnant of the dried-out stem still attached. A missing stem can be a sign of mold and bacteria growth inside.
• Storage Tips: Store in a cool spot with good air circulation (not the refrigerator, but a cool pantry or cellar) for up to a month. If you buy pre-cubed squash at your market, make sure the pieces are dry, firm and vivid in color. Avoid those that look slimy or dried out, with sunken grooves in the flesh.