Cranberries, Sweet Potatoes, Squash and More…

This time of year the produce section of the supermarket is filled with these deep red, yellow and orange fleshed winter vegetables and fruits. I’m talking about the magnificent and very healthy selection of cranberries, squashes and root vegetables.  Here’s a quick run down on these fabulous healthy finds.

Cranberries are extremely tart, scarlet colored berries, grown in large sandy bogs on low trailing vines.  In the US they’re mainly grown in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Washington, and Oregon.  Way too tart to eat raw, cranberries are usually cooked with sugar into a sweet sauce or squeezed into juice.  Fresh cranberries are very high in vitamin C.   Drinking cranberry juice is helpful to prevent or cure cystitis (urinary track infection).  The latest form of cranberry is the “craisin” which is sun-dried and sweetened.   These work great on oatmeal, cereal, salads or added to homemade muffins and breads.  Cranberry season is from late fall to early winter.  Cranberries can be stored in the refrigerator, if tightly wrapped, for about 2 months.  You can pop them in the freezer and use year round.

Winter squashes
have hard thick skins and seeds. They’re firmer than summer squashes and require more cooking time.  There are several varieties including, acorn, butternut, buttercup, banana and spaghetti.  Choose winter squash that is blemish and mold free. Store them in a cool, dark, place, for up to a month.  Once you remove their seeds, they can be baked, steamed or simmered.  What I love about these vegetables are the healthy benefits.  They’re a great source of beta-carotene and most are rich in iron and potassium.

Sweet potatoes
(yams) are a wonderful source of vitamin A and C.  They also contain fiber and complex carbohydrates, a combination that will help regulate blood sugar levels and curb the appetite for people trying to lose weight.  Canned sweet potatoes are almost as high in nutrition as the fresh ones.

Root vegetables
include carrots, parsnip, celery and turnips.  Carrots have about the best source of vitamin A, which plays a role in improving night vision.  They’re extremely fiber rich and contain a fair amount of iron.  Parsnips have a good source of fiber, folate, and vitamin C.  All the root vegetables add a natural sweetness to a recipe.

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