Do you eat enough fruits and vegetables? According to the CDC, only 1 in 10 Americans does.
In colder months in Tennessee, finding fresh, local produce can be hard — but it’s not impossible if you know what to look for.
Here are 11 kinds of produce you can find in Tennessee year-round:
There are more than 10,000 varieties of mushrooms in the world, and dozens are available right here in Tennessee. Maitake, Hen of the Woods, Lion’s Mane, Combtooth — half the fun of fresh mushrooms is learning their quirky names and unique flavors.
Nutritionally, mushrooms are cholesterol-free, low in calories and full of vitamins and minerals. When cooked they act as tiny sponges, absorbing all the flavors around them while giving a dish depth, texture and umami. Here are 20+ ways to try them.
While arugula is at its peak in spring and fall, it’s available year-round, and it’s a great source of bone-strengthening vitamin K. The delicate, peppery lettuce is tasty in salads but also when dressed lightly in vinaigrette and used as a pizza or sandwich topping.
If the strong flavor of arugula turned you off in the past, try it in the winter. Research has shown that dark, leafy greens may taste better in cold weather because the frost shocks some of the bitterness out.
Another go-to green in Tennessee is spinach. It’s good for your eyes and it can help reduce stress and blood pressure levels. It’s also one of the most versatile green vegetables because you can eat it marinated, cooked or raw in everything from salads to smoothies. Here are 40 fun ways to try it.
People often think of root vegetables as cold weather food, but there are different varieties of carrots popping up year-round in Tennessee. In addition to their satisfying crunch, carrots are a good source of fiber and antioxidants. In fact, orange carrots get their bright color from beta carotene, an antioxidant your body turns into vitamin A. Because of their natural sugars and robust texture, they lend themselves to savory and sweet dishes alike.
When most people think of fennel, they think of onions, leeks and other vegetables that are used in stews and sauces. But fennel is actually a part of the carrot family, which explains where the lightly licorice-flavored vegetable gets its sweetness. Try mixing it with potatoes or onions in any savory dish to boost fiber and mineral content, or explore 25 easy ways to use it here.
Most home chefs don’t cook with leeks as much as garlic or onions, perhaps because the large green-and-white stalks make them appear intimidating to work with. But in reality, leeks have a milder, more delicate flavor than onions, and they’re arguably easier to work with since you don’t have to peel them — for most recipes, you simply chop off the green end and use the white.
Leeks are also full of vitamins C, K, and B6, as well as fiber, iron and manganese. Use them like you would fennel to add depth and texture to savory dishes, or try them in starring roles in everything from toast to soup.
As a root vegetable, turnips often take center stage in cooler months, but heirloom varieties are actually available year-round in Tennessee. While the term “heirloom” sounds fancy, it simply means any produce:
- Grown on a small scale
- Using traditional techniques
- From seeds that have existed for more than 50 years.
Turnips range in flavor from strong and peppery to tangy and mild, which means they can be used in everything from raw, crunchy salads to hearty, baked dishes. They’re also a great source of fiber and vitamins B and C.
Broccoli rabeis another vegetable whose name belies its origin. While it looks and tastes similar to broccoli, it’s actually a member of the turnip family. This means the crunchy, fiber-packed leafy green is hearty enough to eat year-round. Cook it the way you would a collard or turnip green, or try it in tomato sauce, pesto or over pasta.
Beets are high in vitamins and minerals, and they’ve been shown to reduce inflammation and improve digestive health. They come in all kinds of bright colors, from purple to yellow to red-and-white striped. Science has shown we eat with our eyes first, which means putting together a colorful plate can lead to a more satisfying meal. Roast them, shave them or pickle them— there’s almost no bad way to cook a beet.
No matter the time of year, you can find fresh squash in Tennessee. That’s good for us because squash is full of vitamin A, which is great for your skin, and it’s also packed with potassium, which helps your nerves and muscles communicate. Try it in this shaved salad in warmer months and learn about all the types of winter squash available in Tennessee here.
The same way different varieties of squash are available year-round, so are potatoes. White potatoes are best in warmer months, but sweet potatoes don’t really have an “off” season, which means they’re a staple Tennesseans can count on year-round.
All potatoes are healthy carbohydrates that are high in vitamins and minerals with just a few differences:
- White potatoes have high anti-cancer properties and more potassium
- Sweet potatoes are higher in vitamin A and antioxidants
If you’re tired of your typical mashed potatoes, try one of these 11 other ways to cook them here.
No matter what fruits and vegetables are available to you at any time of the year, herbs are always fresh, flavorful and easy to find. Some of the herbs that are best all through the year are:
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also use tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the in the Member Wellness Center under the Managing Your Health tab.