What better place to find the freshest and most trustworthy selection of produce than at your local farmers market? The Santa Barbara County is blessed with a reliable, rotating schedule of farmers markets that are held every day of the week between Solvang, Santa Barbara, and Goleta.
This dependable market system is the pride and livelihood of many generations of farming families and friends, many of whose farms are in your very own city. A few questions and an earnest look around the booths unearth a prime selection of winter crops.
“Santa Barbara’s gentle climate allows some fruits to be produced almost year round, like strawberries,” explains Donna Tamai of Tamai Farms, a fourth generation family legacy based in Oxnard. “But crops that are in season are fresh and much more price competitive.”
Winter in California typically boosts citrus fruits (navel oranges, pomelos, and mandarins), hardy cabbages (like kale, brussel sprouts, and radicchio), some root vegetables (including horseradish and turnips), and winter squashes (acorn squash and butternut squash).
“We never use pesticides or fertilizers. Customers like the natural flavor, so we keep it the same,” says Mike Iniguez from Ebby’s Organic Farm as he stands beside a vibrant display of broccoli, cabbage, kale, and the final harvest of bright tomatoes and peas. The high quality of his produce reflects the caliber of neighboring booths as well. Upon asking him his favorite seasonal dishes, he replies that he eats most of it raw. “If it is a little soft when I pick it, I eat it.”
But not all of us have to enjoy our favorite vegetables uncooked. There are innumerable ways to create winter dishes that are both healthful and delectable. Here are a few favorites.
This dark green and purple, leafy super food is packed with nutrients. One cup gives you 88% of your daily needs in vitamin C, 1327% of vitamin K, and 354% of vitamin A. Moreover, the hearty cabbage contains sulfuraphane—a chemical with potent anti-cancer properties—and indole-3-carbinol, a chemical that boosts DNA in cells. Kale is so widely recognized as a nutritional powerhouse that its cultivation in the UK was highly encouraged in order to provide nutrients to supplement the normal diet during rationing.
Even though acorn squash is of the same genus as summer squashes, it enjoys steady popularity in the winter. They have distinctive dark green and orange coloring with deep longitudinal ridges. The thick-skinned squash is indigenous to North and Central America and was introduced to the Europeans by Native Americans. Healthwise, one serving has about 30% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin C. It also provides potassium, manganese, folic acid, and omega-3 fatty acid. There are also a number of other health benefits that include the possibility of promoting prostate health in men, reducing the possibility of lung cancer via beta-carotene, and preventing heart attacks and strokes by reducing a damaging byproduct of metabolism. In short, eat acorn squash!
A little burst of winter beauty, the clementine is the smallest variety of mandarin orange and it’s usually seedless, easy-to-peel, and less acidic than most oranges. The California market for clementines took off in 1997 during a harsh winter in Florida that hampered American orange production. This juicy citrus treat is loaded with nutritional benefits. Two clementines will provide two-thirds the daily amount of vitamin C for any adult, while also providing fiber, folate, and potassium.
BeetrootIn the medieval ages, the beetroot was used more for its medicinal properties than taste. It was considered the cure to a number of ailments including constipation, wounds, fevers, and problems with digestion. Progressive science has revealed even more nutritional advantages: lower blood pressure, protection against liver disease, and better stamina. Whether it’s grilled, boiled, roasted, or raw, you should be eating beetroots.
So why not take some time to get acquainted with your local farmers market and discover a bounty of seasonal selections. It’s an easy way to cross winter wellness off your shopping list.