Do people stop eating salad in the winter? I sure don’t, though I do notice a drop-off. Winter is a time for warming foods, comforting foods, foods that make one homesick for heavy meals and early evenings. But one can totally still eat salad and eat a seasonal diet. For me, winter is not a time for light airy garden salads, but for nourishing salads that offer a needed vitamin boost during the cold months.
The Benefits of Eating a Seasonal Diet
When I shared with you all how I afford organic food, I mentioned first and foremost that eating a seasonal diet is the first step to an affordable organic diet. But eating seasonal is much more than just way to save money. Eating seasonally means that you’re eating your food at it’s best. Don’t get me wrong, blueberries are always packed with antioxidants, but they have less in the winter, and they don’t taste that great either. Pomegranates, on the other hand, are antioxidant powerhouses and are in season all the way through February!
Another added benefit of eating a seasonal diet is that it definitely decreases your carbon footprint. Depending on where you live, it’s more likely that seasonal ingredients are grown locally and not shipped from Mexico. This might be shot in the dark if you live in upstate New York, but if you live in California you can definitely find seasonal, local produce year round. That said, my uncles in Michigan successfully grow broccoli and other brassicas in the winter, sometimes when the outside temperatures are below freezing.
CSA boxes are another great way to find seasonal ingredients from local farms, but depending on where you live, your CSA box might only be seasonal! So, read the labels of where things are from at your local grocery store. Small, locally-owned groceries and co-ops are more likely to feature seasonal and local ingredients all year long.
Eating a seasonal diet also allows you to try new recipes and hone your cooking skills. If you’ve never cooked with an ingredient before, trying it in it’s prime can be the best way to introduce a new flavor to your palette and really experiment. I didn’t grow up eating a lot of turnips growing up, but because they’re readily available in the winter, I decided to buy a few from my farmer’s market and experiment. Turns out, I really like turnips in place of potatoes in soup. The sky’s the limit, don’t shy away from a particular vegetable because you’ve never tried it before.
Making Salad Year Round
Everything I know about salad I learned from my mom. Childhood friends of mine still talk about her salad, the salad that got many of them to like salad. It wasn’t slathered in some goopy dressing and topped with bacon bits, and it wasn’t a fake “salad” made from mostly marshmallows. My mom’s typical salad begins with greens or lettuce, features a symphony of tomatoes, cucumbers, and radishes, and dressed with fresh garlic, dried herbs, olive oil, sea salt, and balsamic vinegar. It’s really very simple, but she’ll make variations of it, adding things like bell peppers and avocado. What I liked about that salad growing up was that it felt like I was eating something healthy, but not disgusting.
As I grew up, specifically after college, I began experimenting with my own salad making. I’d made salads in college, tons of salads, but my palette was still expanding and I was beginning to try things that I’d never really eaten before, like purple potatoes, beets, and kale. And winter ingredients became a huge part of that journey. I started reading cooking and food blogs around this time in my life and realized for the first time that grapefruit could go in a salad. My mind was blown.
The perfect salad, in my opinion, is a blend of fruits and vegetables, mixed with leafy greens, topped with something crunchy like pumpkin seeds, chopped almonds, or ground walnuts, and dressed with a tangy dressing that leaves me feeling vibrant and not weighed down. It’s fresh, yet surprisingly not always cold, but definitely always bursting with flavor and energy.
My Favorite Winter Salad Ingredients
These ingredients are best bought in the winter months and offer a colorful and flavorful boost to any salad. Think fruit in a savory salad is weird? Try it! If you eat dairy, sometimes a feta or goat cheese can bring a salad with fruit together. If not, nuts and seeds really help.
Offer tons of antioxidants, and a tart punch with every bite.
Beets are nature’s candy. Shave them raw into any salad, or roast them with their skins intact, and peal and chop when they’re soft enough to pierce with a fork.
Pink or white grapefruit is delicious in salad, especially paired with other citrus fruits, kale, or arugula.
Any plain old orange will do nicely in a salad, adding sweet notes that compliment the tangy notes in other ingredients. I especially like orange paired with fennel.
Blood oranges are better, deeper, and darker oranges. They’re fantastic in a salad with pears, and add depth to flavors.
These are my favorite winter fruit. Sour, vibrant, and bursting with energetic flavor, I like to peel these suckers and pop them into a salad piece by piece.
I particularly like a slightly under-ripe Anjou or Bosc pair sliced up in a salad, but even Bartlette pears pair nicely, no pun intended.
I love arugula’s nutty and spicy flavor, especially dressed in lemon and olive oil. It grows well and reseeds itself if you live in Northern California. If not, you can even grow it indoors, or find baby arugula at the grocery store. It’s fantastic with citrus of all kinds. Some people find it an acquired taste, so try it before you buy it!
Thought kale was only for sauteing? Pair kale salads with a lemon based dressing, as the lemon brings out the vitamins in the kale. It helps to massage lemon and olive oil into it before eating to soften the leaves.
Fennel grows relatively wildly all over the Bay Area, but I typically buy fennel bulbs from the farmer’s market. They taste like anise or licorice and can be rather strong in flavor, but excellent with citrus.
I’ve been seeing a lot of shaved brussel sprout slaws in recent years, showing up on various blogs and in restaurants. I like brussels raw or roasted. Never boil them (unless you’re adding them to soup).
Broccoli is another fantastic little winter salad ingredient that does well chopped up and sprinkled into a salad. Make sure the pieces are small enough to bite and chew.
Radishes are typically viewed as an early spring vegetable, but they are available seasonally in the winter. thinly slice them and add them to any salad for a nice crunch.
Most people don’t experiment enough with daikon radish. It’s popular in many Asian cuisines. I like it grated or shaved in a salad.
Raw, thinly shaved rutabaga is one of my favorite salad additions that I didn’t discover until relatively recently. I’d never really thought of eating rutabagas raw before until I tried one at a farmer’s market and fell in love. It tastes a little earthy but is wonderful in a green salad with other shaved root veggies.
Favorite Dressing Ingredients
Apple Cider Vinegar
Dried, Fancy Apricots (chopped)
Olives (pits removed, cut in halves)
Those were just my favorite winter salad ingredients. Do you have any of your own that you like that I left out? Share below in the comments.