After the holidays, the produce at Seattle farmers markets includes crops that store well until the growing season begins again in March or April. Though this is the least abundant time of year, there are still many delicious choices, including apples, pears, dried beans, onions and garlic, potatoes, root vegetables, winter greens, and winter squashes. Depending on weather, wild mushrooms can also be abundant. Year-round markets are found Saturdays in the University District, and Sundays in West Seattle and Ballard, as well as daily at Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle. Listed below are ideas for using and preserving some of these winter crops:
Pears make delicious desserts, of course, but also a lovely parsnips, pears, and bacon soup.
Potatoes can become the star of almost every meal. This squash or potato gnocchi with bacon, blue cheese, and winter greens is pure comfort on a plate. Potato cakes stuffed with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes is great for a light supper topped with yogurt. Truffade is a rustic, French cheesy potato pie. Warm potato salad with cabbage and bacon dressing makes a great hot winter salad. Perhaps best of all is this crazy-good Irish colcannon mashed potato recipe with bacon, kale, and garlic. Store raw potatoes in a cool place. Save time during meal preparation by drying or freezing prepared potatoes.
Root vegetables (beets, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, and turnips) can be interchanged in most recipes. Make easy refrigerator pickles from beets, carrots, and turnips. Try this carrot soup with honey and toasted cumin using parsnips or rutabagas. Shred any combination of root vegetables, with or without potatoes, for latkes (try them topped with yogurt and smoked salmon). Or make this fabulous winter vegetable hash with root vegetables, as well as squash, kale, and sun-dried tomatoes. Save money by buying large bags of root vegetables and cellaring them in your house or yard. Beets and carrots also make good wine and all root vegetables freeze well.
Mushrooms make a great sauté or marinated mushroom appetizer. This Russian beef soup with barley and mushrooms was a hit at a recent cooking class and offers plenty of comfort in a bowl. Many other recipes showcase mushrooms. Be sure you know the rules for eating mushrooms. Wild mushrooms can be dried or frozen for use out of season.
Winter greens grow well in the Pacific Northwest and are an important winter vegetable. They have myriad uses. Try this warming Portuguese-inspired kale, bean, and potato soup. Pair greens with pasta and scallops, bacon, and sun-dried tomatoes or mizuna and hazelnuts. My favorite way to prepare green is this savory cheese pie with chard. Or simply dress winter greens with great vinaigrette salad dressing. Steamed greens can be frozen for use in soups and stews—a great time-saving technique for weeknight meals.
For more information preserving winter vgetables and other foods, see the book The Home Preserving Bible by Carole Cancler (Author), New York: Alpha Books, 2012. Paperback. ISBN-13: 9781615641925. Available from Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, or Amazon and other booksellers everywhere.
For more ideas about other crops you may find at local farmers markets during winter, such as broccoli, dried shell beans, winter squashes, onions, and garlic, see the previous article What’s in season at Seattle farmers markets the fourth week of October. In winter, the following crops are also found in Seattle farmers markets:
- Fruits: frozen fruits, dried fruits, fruit leathers, fruit spreads, and jam. Use dried and frozen fruits in breakfast yogurt parfaits or a decadent honey strawberry cheesecake with orange hazelnut crust.
- Herbs: Hardy herbs such as rosemary and sage, as well as dried herbs from some farmers. Herbs are very high in antioxidants, making them an important food for your winter table.
- Veggies: cabbage and pickled foods.
Of course many other foods are available year-round, including meats, poultry, seafood, eggs (in short supply due to lack of light), cheeses, butter, milk and yogurt, wine and cider, honey, fresh pasta, hazelnuts, breads, pickles, sauces, and chutneys. In winter, dress up your burger with cider-glazed onions or try these super easy broiled blue cheese toasts. Make this quick and easy recipe for smoked salmon chowder with bacon, and potatoes. I especially like to make Chilean style bean soup through winter, using canned tomatoes and dried (or frozen) corn that I preserved during summer.