Although many familiar fruits and vegetables are not in season during the cold winter months, there are still plenty of opportunities to incorporate fresh, seasonal produce into your diet. Not just for those with adventurous palates, you may be surprised that simple tweaks to classic dishes can make it easy to use even ‘exotic’ ingredients like celeriac and kohlrabi in your kitchen.
Kumquat – As a member of the citrus family, you might not expect kumquats to thrive in cold temperatures. But this hardy little fruit is an excellent source of beneficial antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin that are essential for protecting your eyes from free radical damage. Edible skin also makes kumquats unique among citrus fruits, with 100 grams (about 1 cup) of fruit providing nearly 7 grams of dietary fiber. A diet that contains adequate fiber (25-35 grams per day) can help protect against certain cancers, including colon cancer. Try replacing grapes with kumquats for a new twist on chicken salad –slicing them in half makes it easier to remove the small, bitter seeds located in the center of the fruit.
Celeriac – As appearances go, this homely root vegetable leaves much to be desired. But don’t judge a book by its cover – an excellent source of vitamin K, celeriac also contains potent antioxidants like falcarinol and panaxydiol, which studies show may offer protection against the development of colon cancer and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). First, peel away the thick, knobbly skin with a paring knife to reveal the creamy white flesh underneath. Pan-cook shredded or diced celeriac for a healthy hash-brown substitute, or julienne and bake for a great alternative to French fries!
Kiwifruit – These fuzzy little fruits may look cute, but they pack a serious nutritional punch – one large kiwifruit provides 3 grams of dietary fiber and a full day’s worth of vitamin C. An excellent source of vitamin K, kiwifruit’s edible seeds are thought to have natural blood thinning properties. And that’s not all – kiwifruit may also stimulate the production of melatonin, a hormone which helps to regulate our sleep-wake cycle. One recent study found that eating two kiwifruits an hour before bed decreased the number of mid-sleep waking episodes by almost 30% after just a few weeks. Delectable when eaten raw, kiwifruit also pairs well with other fruits in chilled soups and chutneys – a chunky purée of mango and kiwifruit makes a great salsa to go with baked chicken or fish.
Radicchio – Often hidden among the iceberg lettuce in bagged salad mixes, radicchio deserves a more prominent role in your next meal. With a pleasant, spicy flavor and sky-high levels of vitamin K, tardivo radicchio gets its deep, reddish-purple color from anthocyanins. These flavonoid compounds, also found in eggplant, blackberries, and red wine, may help protect against cardiovascular disease, which kills more than 600,000 men and women in the United States each year. For a flavorful side dish, marinate chopped radicchio in balsamic vinegar before roasting until tender – pairs nicely with beef or pork.
Kohlrabi – Like broccoli and cabbage, kohlrabi hails from the Brassica family and contains high levels of isothiocyanates, a class of compounds that can enhance the detoxification of cancer-causing chemicals in your body. Studies suggest that one of these compounds, sulforaphane, is able to preferentially target pre-cancerous cells in the prostate while leaving healthy prostate cells alone. Buy kohlrabi with the leafy fronds still attached – you can use these greens in a salad, and the crunchy bulbs are delicious when sliced into wedges and eaten raw, like a savory apple.