What should be on our plates in autumn and winter, and what is particularly healthy? What should be on our shopping lists when it’s cold and wet outside? Not all types of fruit and vegetables from regional cultivation are available at this time of year, but it is still important to pay attention to regionality.
Of course, you can still find asparagus, strawberries and lettuce in supermarkets in autumn and winter, but you should be aware that these foods won’t contain the same nutrients that locally grown produce does. Why not? Freshly harvested fruit and vegetables are better for us and contain a lot more vitamins.
The reason for this is that the vitamins in fruit and vegetables from southern Europe or overseas decay during the long transport routes. Moreover, import goods are often harvested in an unripe state or even irradiated so that they survive their transport to the supermarket. As a result, not only do fruit and vegetables lose aroma and flavour, they also lose valuable ingredients, since many vitamins are sensitive to heat, light and oxygen. Long transport routes result in lower vitamin content.
Fruit and vegetables grown locally, however, offer the full vitamin content that we really need for our health at this time of year. A vitamin-rich diet is particularly important in winter to strengthen the body’s defences. Typical winter vegetables from the local region are also less polluted than imported goods.
Local organic boxes
The shorter the transport route, the more valuable ingredients the fruit and vegetables contain. Regional produce remains the first choice, even if the selection of regional, seasonal fruit and vegetables is not as wide in winter as it is in spring and summer. Regionally grown products are best found at local weekly markets or organic farms.
The best autumn and winter vegetables
A wide range of seasonal fruit and vegetables from organic farming is on offer in most regions, and no doubt this includes your local area! Every season, including autumn and winter, has its own seasonal fruits and vegetables, so there is no lack of choice for what to put on the table. Cabbage, potatoes, chicory, carrots, onions, pumpkin, leek, beetroot, Teltow turnips, Chinese cabbage, white cabbage, red cabbage, turnips and lamb’s lettuce from local growers are all healthy winter vegetables. Brussels sprouts and kale won’t taste their best until the first frost has fallen. Many domestic winter varieties, such as savoy cabbage, have even made the transition from typical so-called “peasant dishes” to Michelin- starred cuisine.
Vitamins and minerals in nuts
Nuts, especially popular in winter and not only at Christmas, contain a lot of healthy nutrients. They provide a lot of energy, strengthen the heart and autonomic nervous system, and lower cholesterol. The vitamin E contained in nuts also protects cells and the immune system. The high proportion of unsaturated fatty acids in nuts is also excellent for blood lipid levels. Nuts are harvested between October and January, and are therefore a typical winter fruit.
Fresh from local fields
Fresh green cabbage has plenty of vitamin C. Other varieties of cabbage, some of which are freshly harvested throughout the winter, also contain a lot of vitamin C, and are moreover very low in calories, which is also good for your waistline. From November to January, there is a wide range of healthy cabbage varieties on offer.
Brussels sprouts are rich in vitamins A and C. Brussels sprouts contain more vitamin C and B vitamins than almost any other vegetable. They are also rich in minerals such as magnesium, calcium, iron and potassium. And they also contain glucosinolates, a group of phytochemicals that lower the risk of certain cancers.
Especially in winter, you should enjoy Brussels sprouts more often, as they provide a lot of vegetable protein. It’s impossible to sing the praises of Brussels sprouts loudly enough: cabbage vegetables contain active ingredients that prevent many chronic diseases, or can at least have a positive effect in hindering them. The antioxidant sulforaphane contained in Brussels sprouts is said to prevent tumours and destroy cancer cells.
Beetroot is a miracle tuber, even if not everyone likes this vegetable. Beetroot provides vitamins A, C and B as well as plenty of iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium. It also contains the secondary plant substance betaine, which stimulates the functioning of the liver cells. The leaves of this tuber provide even more ingredients than the vegetable itself.
According to the Centre for Health, beetroot leaves contains seven times the amount of calcium, three times the amount of magnesium, six times the amount of vitamin C, more than two hundred times the amount of vitamin A, and two thousand times the amount of Vitamin K that the beetroot itself.
Eating dishes containing beetroot and drinking beetroot juice on a regular basis prevents heart attacks and strokes, writes the Centre for Health. The betaine in beetroot is also a mood enhancer, which is particularly welcome during the dark winter months.
Pumpkin: the culinary highlight of autumn and winter
The chicory bud also contains many vitamins and minerals, but this bitter vegetable is not everyone’s cup of tea. Germans’ favourite winter vegetable is without a doubt the pumpkin, and not only because of the many ways it can be prepared.
Pumpkin puree, pumpkin soup and pumpkin mousse for dessert
The pumpkin is an all-rounder which offers a variety of uses in the kitchen. Some of the most popular varieties in Germany include the nutty/buttery butternut squash, the aromatic Hokkaido squash and the spicy nutmeg squash. They all have one thing in common: they are extremely healthy. Pumpkins are particularly good sources of beta-carotene (a precursor of vitamin A and potassium), magnesium, calcium, iron and satiating fibre.
Finally, we have the king of lettuce leaves
A regional delight in winter – lamb’s lettuce is considered the healthiest of all lettuce leaves and is therefore the king of winter. It is rich in provitamin A and vitamin C. In fact, no other lettuce leaf contains as much vitamin C as lamb’s lettuce. Lamb’s lettuce is a winter vegetable that can be grown in Germany throughout the winter, as it is not affected by temperatures around freezing. When it comes to ingredients lamb’s lettuce has it all, from vitamins C and A to phosphorus, calcium and folic acid. It should be a common ingredient on our plates in winter because it is very healthy.
And don’t forget: meals with friends and family still taste best!