Taming the Terror of Turnips – and other winter produce

With tens of millions of Americans making New Year’s resolutions every year, and many focusing on weight loss or self-improvement, you can safely bet that many a resolution contains some vow to eat healthier. And with calls from every major health organization to eat more fruits and vegetables for a better diet, the produce department is a prime focus come January.

No matter the time of year, the best bets in produce are fruits and vegetables that are in season. They offer the freshest tasting options, often at the best prices. But not everyone is as comfortable with the offerings from winter’s bounty, such as kale, grapefruit, persimmons and turnips, as they are with more familiar summer favorites like lettuce, strawberries and corn. As Interactions’ Business Manager Leanne Heckenlaible notes, “Some of the winter produce items are intimidating to customers and they need a little help with cooking and recipe tips.”

In-store events can be the perfect opportunity to show shoppers how to reap the benefits of winter produce.

A great-tasting winter veggie recipe could be easily prepared and sampled from the all-purpose cooking pot, and a health benefit tip sheet that includes recipes and coupons would encourage the customer to try the new product at home.” –Sales Advisor Shari Brian

Teach shoppers how to bring out the best flavors

Using a sample and a tip sheet, you can show shoppers the best ways to prepare winter produce. For example, turnips often get a bad rap for being bitter. But when boiled along with a potato in the pot, the bitterness all but disappears. For carrots, Brussels sprouts and beets, roasting brings out a sweetness some may never have realized existed. And a sprinkle of salt does wonders for taking care of the sometimes unpleasant pucker of grapefruit.

Use seasonal produce to put a new twist on an old favorite

Show shoppers how they can incorporate winter produce into recipes they already know and love. Boil parsnips until soft, then puree with skim milk and a touch of butter for a healthier, sweeter version of mashed potatoes. Use persimmons in place of tomatoes to make a delicious salsa. Or swap out lettuce for kale in a favorite salad (remove the center vein and marinate in salad dressing for at least an hour to soften the usually tough green).

Show the value of shopping seasonally

Winter citrus fruits are a great example of getting the most bang for your buck in the produce department. For example, a box of clementines (often around $5 in the winter) could easily fill 2 school lunch boxes every day for 2 weeks, versus the 4-5 pounds of apples (at $8-10 or more) you’d need to do the same. Plus, in-season fruits are usually sweeter and juicier than their off-season counterparts. Remember—winter produce doesn’t have to be boring or intimidating. All it (and shoppers) need is a dash of creativity and a pinch of encouragement.