Yes, You Can Find Fresh Produce in February. The 5 Items to Look for Now
I’m struggling to come up with something nice to say about you, you dreary placeholder of a month. You’re not quite spring (even here in Florida), yet the joys of winter have long since passed us by.
But quite possibly the worst part of the transitory period between the holidays and warm weather is the lack of fresh, affordable produce.
While we Floridians enjoy a lot more local produce more often than the rest of the country (hey, fair’s fair -- we never get to see trees change colors), the northern part of the U.S. is stuck eating roots. So many roots. And there are only so many ways you can prepare turnips and parsnips and carrots and rutabagas before you just need something fresh and colorful, for Pete’s sake.
Unfortunately for you Northerners, February leaves farmers markets empty and the produce section at the grocery store pretty sparse. While some fruits and veggies, like bananas, are imported year-round, it’s always nice to know what’s in season in -- or around -- your area.
Below, you’ll find a list (a brief one -- it is February, after all!) of fruits and vegetables in season and at their lowest prices. And don’t worry if they’re not in your immediate vicinity -- peak season in one part of the U.S. often means lower prices and better availability in even the frostiest cities, particularly for produce that travels well.
Be on the lookout for the following fresh produce items at your local grocery store. If you’re looking for more options, hang tight -- winter will be over soon!
California: Blood Oranges
Winter is citrus season for many of the warmer coastal areas in the U.S. In California, blood oranges are at peak season December through May: The Moro variety usually peaks in February, while the Tarocco season stretches a bit further into the year.
The blood orange’s name comes from its deep crimson-colored insides -- the later in the season, the darker the red usually is. When picking blood oranges in-store, choose ones that feel heavy for their size, regardless of skin color.
These rosy fruits are delicious on their own but can also make a yummy and visually spectacular addition to salads or a fruity salsa. If you’re looking for a fresh way to toss up your dinner routine, try this recipe for blood orange roasted chicken from goboroot.
Kumquats are in season here in Florida! For me, kumquats evoke memories of climbing my grumpy old neighbor’s tree and stuffing my pockets full of the little golden fruits before he could chase me off and threaten to call my parents.
And while kumquats are no less delicious now that I’m an adult, I’ve been surprised to find they’re actually used in plenty of more refined dishes — more refined than smooshed pocket- kumquats, anyway.
Texas: Spring Greens
In the southernmost states where spring starts early, tender mustard, collard and dandelion greens start popping up in search of the mild weather and gentle sunshine. They grow quickly and abundantly, so they should start appearing in local farmers markets any day now.
The best part? There’s no wrong way to eat greens. Use them in salads, toss them in soups and stews, substitute greens for regular lettuce on sandwiches, or sautee them with bacon like in this recipe from Simply Recipes for a truly Southern side dish.
New York: Sunchokes (Also Known As Jerusalem Artichokes)
Sunchokes are a new discovery for me. Like, I didn’t even know these things existed. But after hearing about their sweet and nutty flavor, crisp texture (somewhere between a water chestnut and a potato), and their extreme versatility, I’m excited to try them out.
Sunchokes are a tuber, the root of a particular variety of sunflower. (I know I just lamented the unending bounty of roots in the winter, but these guys are different!) They look pretty similar to a knobby ginger root, and many say they taste somewhere between an artichoke and an apple (which doesn’t tell you anything too specific, I know). They’re harvested between October and March, but they’re at their sweetest and most delicious after a few frosts have set in.
As far as cooking these homely little roots goes, they can function like apples or potatoes, meaning they are particularly delicious roasted or mashed. This recipe from Bon Appetit pairs sunchokes perfectly with parsnips and beets -- both rooty vegetables that shouldn’t be hard to find.
Florida (Again): Grapefruit
Like I said, Florida gets all the good stuff in the winter. To be honest, I didn’t know I liked grapefruit until last year. I had had an unfortunate run-in with a particularly sour grapefruit as a kid and wrongfully assumed they were all as painfully bitter.
But then! Then I tried a perfectly ripened, perfectly sweet grapefruit and haven’t looked back.
Alright now. Are you ready for the best grapefruit recipe you’ll ever try?
I mean, it’s seriously delicious.
Like really good.
Almost too good.
Are you ready?
Step 1: Cut grapefruit in half.
Step 2: Sprinkle with sugar (or don’t — still delicious).
Step 3: Eat with a spoon.
Here Comes the Sun
Now I’ll say it again: February is not the best month for fruits and vegetables in season. March will bring so many juicy fruits and tender spring veggies, and farmers markets will begin to reopen for the season. And we’ll be here to tell you what’s in season in your neck of the woods!
Meanwhile, when you’re in need of some fresh produce to break up the monotony, keep your eyes open for the bright citrus that should be abundant. You need the extra vitamin C to combat the winter blues and keep you going until spring.
Your Turn: What fresh produce are you dreaming of on these dreary winter days?
Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s just glad there’s no offseason for coffee!