What, Why and How to Eat Local During the Winter

Summer may be over but eating local, seasonal foods doesn't have to be

Fill your fridge with these seasonal foods to stay healthy through the cold, wet months

It’s no secret that it’s hard to stay healthy through the winter months. With bikini season behind you and cold weather begging for comfort food indulgence, it’s tough to see the appeal in a skimpy salad. But buying locally through the winter isn’t as limiting as you may think. In fact, in B.C. buying locally means satisfying your cravings for rich, hearty foods all year long.

Stop by the 18th Annual Vancouver Farmers Markets Seasonal Celebration of Food & Art at the Croatian Cultural Centre on December 14. The event will help to further verse you in the advantages of local fruits and vegetables. And don’t forget that the Yaletown Farmers Market and Winter Farmers Market are open all season long.

In the meantime, check out these seasonal foods available through December and January and learn about the benefits they have to offer (besides a full tummy and happy taste buds).

Roots – beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabaga

Let’s face it: everyone wants warm foods that are cozy and comforting and don’t add to your winter waistline. If you think this sounds too good to be true, familiarize yourself with root vegetables. The complex carbs are big in hearty flavour, but small in caloric intake and fat, providing you with long-lasting energy through the cold, dark months. And since they’re rich in Vitamin C, they’ll help fill the sunshine void. So make a big batch of stew, or your family favourite casserole, and throw in these high fibre veggies to stay satisfied.

Where to buy: Capella Farm (Surrey) and Cropthorne Farm (Delta).

Allium – onions and leeks

Winter indulgences may warm your heart, but did you know they could also benefit your health? The advantages of eating onions – especially raw – range from cancer prevention and asthma treatment to bacteria destruction and natural detoxifying. Not to be forgotten is their ability to lower cholesterol, keeping your heart as healthy as it is happy. Leeks, on the other hand, protect our blood vessels, offering cardiovascular support beyond their basic supply of vitamins and minerals.

Where to buy: Ice Cap Organics (Pemberton)

Greens – brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale

It’s no secret that greens are good for us, but the benefits of the winter season variety may be less commonly known. Kale – arguably the trendiest veggie on the West Coast these days – balances high fibre and iron with minimal calories and zero fat, giving you energy at no expense.

And the year-long produce isn’t alone in its anti-inflammatory properties. Joined by cabbage and brussels sprouts, these wintry greens will help build natural immune boosters while relieving muscle soreness. So go ahead and get active this winter, and then rejuvinate with green goodness. 

Tip: Load up on brussels sprouts this Christmas to help increase digestion through your festive feast!

Where to buy: Metro Vancouver City Farms (Vancouver)

Gourds – winter squash

Is there anything more comforting on cool evenings than a big bowl of butternut squash soup? This season’s squash varieties are particularly nutrient dense, helping to prevent cancer, heart disease and cataracts. Gourds are full of fibre leaving you satisfied and limiting snack cravings after your meal. (Plus, they make for fun and easy seasonal home decor.)

Where to buy: Albert’s Herbs & Nursery (Burnaby) and Guichon Farms (Delta)

Spices – bay leaves, chervil, cilantro, thyme, winter savory, sage

Spices provide all the rich flavour befitting your cozy, comfort dishes so that you can leave out the salt, fat and sugar. If you need more reason to expand your spice rack, check out the health benefits of these winter spices.

Bay Leaves: improve insulin to help fight diabetes; improve markers of heart disease for early diagnosis
Chervil: relieves cold and flu symptions; reduces the appearance of celulite and vericose veins
Cilantro: lowers stress levels; improves sleep
Thyme: is antiseptic and antibacterial to assist fighting off illness
Winter Savory: is antifungal and antibacterial, can relieve bronchitis and flu symptoms
Sage: improves memory; decreases inflammation

Where to buy: Natural Village (Richmond)

Credit: Flickr/ Chiew Pang

Fruit – apples, kiwi, pears

You thought beans were the magical fruit? Think again. Fruits like apples, kiwis and pears can fight fatal diseases.

Apples are particularly combative, as they are associated with the prevention of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer and diabetes. Kiwis will help regulate your blood pressure, and their low glycemic index make them a good source of sweet satisfaction for diabetics.

Pears fight heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis. They also have lower rates of allergic reaction, making them accessible to the wide majority, and are specifically recommended for pregnant women and weaning children.

All three high fibre fruit will keep you full and assist with your digestion.

Where to buy: Applebarn Pumpkin Farm (Abbotsford) and Sapo Bravo Organics (Lytton)

Credit: Fable

Local Restaurant Emphasizes Local Foods

Feeling daunted by the commitment to locally sourced foods? Local chef Trevor Bird sympathizes. The head chef at Kitsilano’s Fable Restaurant (a moniker based on “from farm to table”), which boasts a menu full of locally sourced ingredients, admits that buying locally can be limiting. However, Bird counters that using what is available around you is “part of the fun of cooking.”

Bird suggests keeping recipes simple when you fill your fridge with local products, as fresh ingredients don’t need much help to maximize their flavour. He lists cabbage, squash and kale among his favourite winter vegetables.

Now that you know their health benefits maybe you will too.

Trevor Bird suggests: North Arm Farms (Pemberton) and Two Rivers (North Vancouver)