Cape Town's water crisis has forced us all to reaccess the way we do day to day things. How often we shower (hopefully you know not to bath), showering with a bucket, using grey water for plants and flushing toilets... But did you know that one of the biggest consumers of water is the agriculture sector? The best way to mitigate this is to focus on plant-based diets and to make sure we are buying what is in season and is grown locally. Here is a short guide of fruits and vegetables in season now.
Pawpaws or Papayas
This super-healthy, budget-friendly vegetable is a close cousin to other cold-weather favourites like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, and broccoli. Cabbage is loaded with vitamins and minerals (Vitamins C and K and folate, in particular), fibre, antioxidants, and anti-carcinogenic compounds called glucosinolates. Some studies claim that the spherical vegetable can even reduce cholesterol and lower risk of cancer and diabetes.
Storage Tips: Tightly wrap individual heads of cabbage in plastic and stash in the refrigerator to keep ‘em fresh for up to a week.
2. Brussels Sprouts
The Brussels sprout boasts some of the same health benefits as it’s big brother, the cabbage. Like other cruciferous vegetables, Brussels sprouts have high levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants that can protect DNA from oxidative damage.
Storage Tips: Brussels sprouts will keep in the fridge for a few weeks. The outer leaves will shrivel, so remove them just before cooking your sprouts.
Gourdy goodness! Acorn, butternut, kabocha, and delicata squash are all at their prime during the Autumn and Winter. Golden squash flesh is loaded with healthy goodness like carotenoids, Vitamin A, and potassium.
Storage Tips: Even though they seem pretty solid, squash continue to ripen once they’re picked. Slow down the process by storing them in a cool, slightly humid environment (like, say, a basement or cellar). Under the right conditions, squash will keep for up to three months.
How to Eat It: Since squash is healthy, fairly inexpensive, filling, and so tasty, it’s no wonder there are thousands of awesome recipes for them.
Sweet, earthy, and deep red, beetroot is pretty unique in the vegetable aisle. Beetroot contains antioxidants called betalains, which can help fight cancer and other degenerative diseases. They’re also rich in vitamins A, B, C as well as potassium and folate. They’re also a natural source of sugar (about nine grams per serving), so those looking to cut down on sweet stuff should take note. Not bad for a bright-red bulb, right?
Storage Tips: Store beetroots in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Celeriac is probably the ugly duckling of winter produce. It looks like a misshapen, greenish-white blob covered in little roots. Appetizing, right? But beyond the odd exterior, celeriac boasts a tasty, subtle flavor — somewhere between parsley and celery — and a hearty texture. It’s low in calories, high in fiber, and rich in vitamin C (a powerful antioxidant) and phosphorus (which contributes to strong bones and teeth).
Storage Tips: Like other root veggies, celeriac will stay fresh in the fridge for up to a month.
How to Eat It: Sub in celeriac for almost any root vegetable. Cube and sautée it for a tasty, healthy substitute for hash browns.
Did your mom ever tell you to eat carrots for healthy eyes? They're loaded with the antioxidant beta-carotene, a compound that converts to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is essential for a strong immune system and healthy eyes, skin, and mucous membranes. The orange veggies are also loaded with vitamin C, cyanidins, and lutein, which are all antioxidants. Some studies show that eating carrots can reduce the risk of cancer and even prevent cardiovascular disease.
Storage Tips: Like many root vegetables, carrots will keep in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for several weeks.
7. Turnips and Rutabagas
These purple-and-white bulbs might look like potatoes, but they’re actually related to cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Confused yet? Perhaps because of this oh-so-confusing identity crisis, turnips and rutabagas are often (unfortunately) overlooked in the produce aisle. But they boast the same nutritional perks as other cruciferous veggies (namely cancer-fighting glucosinolates, vitamins C and K, folate, potassium, fibre, and calcium), plus their slightly sweet taste is a boon to nearly any dish.
Storage Tips: Keep turnips and rutabagas in the fridge for a few weeks or in a root cellar for several months.
These (white) carrot look-alikes are packed with nutritional goodness. The long, pale, tapered root veggies are loaded with fibre, potassium, vitamin C, and folate. Like carrots, they have a slightly sweet, earthy flavour that goes well with nearly any winter soup, stew, or casserole. Half a cup of cooked ‘snips contains 17 percent of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin C and just 55 calories.
Storage Tips: Store parsnips in a bag in the refrigerator for three to four weeks.
9. Citrus Fruit
Dark winter days getting you down? Grab a handful of cheery citrus to last you until summer fruit season. And while they’re not so great for your teeth, citrus fruits are loaded with vitamin C and flavonoids, which may reduce risk of cancer. Citrus consumption has also been linked to lower risk of a laundry list of ailments, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, cholera, gingivitis, cataracts, and Crohn’s disease. Stock up on lemons, oranges, grapefruit, kumquats, blood oranges, limes, and clementines to get your citrus fix this winter.
Storage Tips: Store citrus in the refrigerator for a few weeks, or at room temperature for up to four days.
Pomegranates are one of the world’s oldest fruits (Greco-Romanmythology, anyone?) as well as one of the most nutritious. The ruby-colored seeds are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that can help treat heart conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attack, and congestive heart failure. Studies show that drinking pomegranate juice can reduce build-up of fatty deposits in arteries, which is a culprit behind many heart conditions. Extracting the seeds from a pomegranate can be tricky, but the heart-healthy, sweet-sour pods are well worth the effort.
Storage Tips: Keep pomegranates in the refrigerator for up to two months, or at room temperature for one to two weeks.
How to Eat It: A sprinkling of pomegranate seeds adds some tart, bright flavour to a winter kale salad.
11. Dark, Leafy Greens
Trendy kale and flavorful collards have their moment in the sun (ironically) during the winter. These veggies are rich in vitamins A, C, K, and E, as well as iron, calcium, manganese, potassium, and phytochemicals and antioxidants. Plus, they’re low in calories and versatile enough to fit nearly any dish. Kale and collard greens are members of the super-healthy brassica vegetable family, which means they aid in digestion, help lower cholesterol, and protect the body against cancer.
Storage Tips: Wrap washed and dried greens in paper towels, then put the whole shebang in a plastic bag in the fridge. Greens will stay fresh for one or two weeks.
How to Eat It: Swap kale, chard, or collards for lettuce to make a nutrient-rich salad.
With feathery leaves on top, a round, onion-shaped bulb on the bottom, and a licorice-like taste throughout, fennel is definitely one of the stranger-looking vegetables out there. It’s a little bit sweet, kinda crunchy, and—above all—super healthy. The liquorice flavour is due to a compound called anethole, which has been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers, aid digestion, suppress inflammation, and naturally thin blood to prevent clots. Fennel also boasts a boatload of vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and copper.
Storage Tips: Wrap fennel bulb in a paper bag and store in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Adapted from this article: