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Savor the Season

Natural Times, January/February/March 2012

By Jennifer Bronson

The cold, often damp, months of a North Florida winter cry out for savory foods that will warm us to our cores. From satsumas to sweet potatoes, we are lucky to have an abundance of locally produced, seasonal selections that are perfect for creating those meals.

Greens are one of the best cool-weather crops to work with. They can be harvested throughout the season as baby or mature leaves and are very versatile in recipes. The sturdiness of kale makes it a great choice for soups and stews since it will hold up to longer simmer times. A quick sauté of bok choy, mustard or collard greens with white onion and butter or olive oil creates an easy accompaniment to chicken or fish. Be sure to add a little heat to those collards with hot pepper vinegar. Spinach is one of the most popular of the season with its mild flavor and ease of use in everything from breakfast omelets to homemade pizzas! All varieties of greens are high in vitamins and nutrients, which help keep our energy up during the shorter daylight hours of winter.

Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are in-season veggies that fortify a variety of meals. Many people turn their noses up at the thought of Brussels sprouts, but try a shredded Brussels sprout salad with bacon, cranberries, and toasted pecans and you may change your mind about them. Cauliflower is the low-carb substitute for seemingly everything these days including mashed potatoes and even tater tots! Broccoli is perfect for quiches that can also utilize local eggs, meats, and cheeses.

When thinking of savory dishes, winter squashes and root veggies are stand-outs. Winter squash are harvested in fall, but because of their hard skins they can be stored and are available throughout the cool months. There is nothing quite as delicious as a roasted acorn squash with butter, brown sugar, and maple syrup. This is one of my favorite treats to enjoy by the fire. Butternut squash mixes well with root veggies such as turnips and beets for a colorful, healthy side to pork or red meats. Just cut them all into thick chunks, toss with olive oil and seasonings of your choice, and pop them in the oven. Soon the house will be filled with a scrumptious potpourri from the kitchen!

Along with all the local veggies and root crops that are available in the cool months, don’t forget that many herbs for seasoning grow beautifully during this time of year. Rosemary, oregano, thyme, sweet marjoram, and lavender are just a few. We are also fortunate to have local citrus that can also add a sweet kick to dinners, desserts, and pastries!

When nothing else but a ladle of hearty stew fresh from the stovetop will thaw those frozen toes, head out to New Leaf Market and all the fully-stocked farmers markets around town to find those local products to create that perfect winter’s meal.

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