By Shannie McCabe and Yuvraj Khamare
Winter in Central Florida may not bring feet of snow, but the refreshingly brisk weather and occasional frost provide perfect conditions to grow some of our favorite cool-weather crops. Many farmers’ markets and C.S.A (Community Supported Agriculture) subscriptions resume in the winter months and this is an excellent time to access some beautiful locally grown veggies and winter superfoods.
Best Winter Crops for Your Garden
Florida gardeners rejoice when winter comes, as cool temperatures mean sweeter winter vegetables and fewer pest issues.
Root crops, like carrots and beets, take on a sweeter flavor when exposed to cool weather and frost. Homegrown winter carrots are a delicacy that should not be missed. We love to plant a rainbow of different colored carrots in our winter beds. Gardeners can select their favorite colorful carrot varieties to plant in raised beds. We especially love the Kyoto Red Carrot, which is adapted to growing over the winter and produces a beautiful crimson root. This heirloom from Japan performs exceptionally well in our Florida garden each winter.
Beets tend to get a bum rap, perhaps thanks to the fact that many of us were first exposed to them straight from the can. Canned beets are a far cry from the fresh experience. A good winter grown beet is delicious; earthy, crunchy, and sweet. Home growing beets in Florida are a snap, and over the winter, they develop a superb flavor. Another bonus of growing your own beets is that you can try different varieties in various colors. Golden beets are nutritious and tasty. They are a good choice for those who don’t like the “earthy” flavor of traditional red beets. Chioggia beets are candy striped on the inside. They have a sweet mild flavor and taste amazing when thin sliced and eaten raw.
Best Winter Superfoods at Orlando Farmers Markets/CSAs
Winter is perfect for visiting your local farmers’ market or getting on board with a local farm CSA subscription. There are a number of amazing local markets and farms to visit with a range of seasonal delicacies and winter superfoods.
Cauliflower has become a favorite of the market farming movement. The large heads in a range of colors from purple to green and orange. Keep an eye for purple cauliflower at the farmers’ market! It is tasty and rich with antioxidants.
A Cozy, Locally-Grown Winter Tea
Our favorite herbal tea to sip on in the winter is butterfly pea. This brilliant blue tea is perfect hot or cold. It has soothing and calming properties, ideal for winding down in the evening or calming the nerves any time of the day.
Butterfly pea has been extensively studied in recent years for its myriad health benefits. The tea is a mood enhancer, as it has stress-relieving effects. Butterfly pea flowers are a powerhouse of antioxidants. The flowers are rich in anthocyanins that help our body to build and restore skin collagen and stimulate hair growth.
Butterfly pea vines grow beautifully over the warm season months in Florida. In the summer and fall, the blooms are harvested and dried for tea. The tea has a very mild flavor and takes well to pairing with lemongrass or citrus. The bright blue tea instantly changes to pink if you add a squeeze of citrus. This color-changing property makes butterfly pea tea a favorite for kids and even those who like to make eye-catching cocktails or mocktails. You can order local butterfly pea tea at plantsages.com or look for it on the tea shelf at WildHare Natural Market in Longwood.