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Plan Your Holiday Menu with the Best In-Season Produce

Toni Ann Di Santis

If you think fresh fruit isn’t in season as the days get shorter and colder winter weather sets in, think again! Certain fruits and veggies are in peak season now—so you have no excuse not to get your daily recommended amount. 

What's In Season In December?

Brussels Sprouts- If you’ve never seen how these babies grow, it’s time to take a trip to the local farmers market. They look like teeny cabbages that grow in rows on a single two- or three-foot long stalk. Who knew?!

Beets - Gorgeously-hued beets ranging from dark red and golden-orange to red-and-white-striped can be found at the market. Deep-colored beets can stain everything—your fingers, countertops, and cutting boards included—but lemon juice gets those colors out.

Buttercup Squash - Winter squash are wonderful to enjoy through the colder months, and they have a long shelf life when stored at room temperature. The Buttercup variety is round and relatively small with a dark green skin and deep orange, beta-carotene-filled flesh that tastes mildly sweet. Fun fact: The skin of Buttercup squash can be so tough that you sometimes may need an actual hammer to break it open.

Bosc Pears - have a warm, cinnamon brown-colored skin and a juicy, honey-sweet flesh. Use the Check the Neck test to determine if Bosc pears are ready to eat: Gently apply pressure with your thumb near the stem end, noting that these pears give less than other pears when they are ripe due to their thicker skin. Store unripe pears at room temperature and only refrigerate them after they've ripened.

Escarole - This cousin of Belgian endive resembles frilly romaine lettuce. It has a slightly bitter taste, and younger tender leaves should be selected for salads (they're less bitter). Escarole can be substituted for mesclun, mustard greens, spinach, or arugula. Add it to soups, pasta dishes, or sauté it with a touch of garlic and olive oil.

Clementine - The smallest member of the mandarin orange family is a perfect snack choice, especially during flu season. Munching on one fruit will provide 60 percent of your daily recommended dose of vitamin C. It also contains other good-for-you nutrients like thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, and potassium.

Collard Greens - This cousin to kale and mustard greens is now in peak season. It has smooth dark green leaves, which have a slightly bitter, smoky flavor. Select collard greens that are crisp, plump, and deep green and avoid those that are yellow or torn. 

Tip: Before preparing, wash thoroughly to get rid of the grit and dirt. Then trim the root ends and place in a bowl of water and wash each leaf thoroughly until the dirt settles to the bottom of the bowl. Drain and replace the water, repeating several times until there is no visible dirt at the bottom of the bowl.

Mustard Greens -One cup of chopped raw mustard greens contains just 15 calories and is free of fat and cholesterol. It also contains three and a half times the daily recommended amount of vitamin K, more than a full day's recommended amount of vitamin A, and two-thirds the recommended amount of vitamin C. Even more, it's brimming with lesser amounts of folate, calcium, iron, potassium, and fiber.

For a full list of produce in season, go to : http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/whats-in-season-winter