Winter is often portrayed as a time of lack when it comes to food. However there are a lot of delicious fruits and vegetables on offer during the colder months. As much as it may become colder, many crops endure the cool nights to make some of your favourite vegetables and fruits out of the year.
Nikki Fitz-Gerald, brand manger of Life Is a Garden said vegetables that are available now include the brassica family which needs cold conditions to bear fruit mass, as well as a shorter day length.
“Brassica family consists of the following: Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussel sprouts. Oriental vegetables perform better in cooler conditions as they don’t ‘bolt’ as fast as in summer. Certain lettuce varieties are able to withstand the extreme cold conditions, for example butter lettuce. However most of the ‘head’ varieties will turn to mush after a heavy frost. Celery is another winter favourite, with mature plants taking a heavy frost. Peas are also a great plant for colder conditions, along with leeks”, she says.
“Summer conditions can be stimulated to grow seasonal types, but this requires artificial lighting and heating, which incurs a high cost, which is why one pays more for out of season produce. Growing any fruit bearing plant out of season without artificial ‘forcing’ will result in lower yields and inferior quality. Mature beetroot plants are also hardy to frost, but are ideal for non-frost areas. Coriander is a plant that can tolerate the cold and which stays compact-ideal for those winter curries”, she added.
And if you are wondering where the strawberries and litchis went, it is not the season for them.
Ripe fruits this season include: apples, avocados, bananas, lemon, naartjies, oranges, pawpaw, kiwi, grapefruit, granadillas and gooseberries.
“Citrus are the main fruit available in this period as they require a shorter day length, as well as cool temperatures to produce flowers and fruit. Again, if these are to be purchased out of season, they will cost more due to the fact that fruit will be imported. Certain varieties of avocado are also in season now. Apples will be classed as in season now, although they would have been harvested in the last two months.
"Fruit trees are rarely forced to produce, and are rather imported if out of season. Pineapples are an important export for South Africa, which are harvested twice a year, one of which is about now. The demand for fruit in warmer times of the year is higher because of the availability, but also because the idea of eating cold fruit in winter is not that appealing whereas cooling down in summer with cold fruit is very appealing”, says Fitz-Gerald.