For most people, salad means summer with crisp lettuce, tomato, cucumbers and capsicum. We tend to have multiple heavy meals in winter and therefore sometimes need a lighter meal to offset the hearty comfort foods we eat. We will also happily entertain or visit friends for barbeque dinners in winter and we normally take the obligatory salad or dessert.
If you have ever eaten a tomato in winter you could have experienced a flavourless, firm fruit, pale in it’s orange appearance. Winter tomatoes simply don’t have the rich, ripe flavour and beautiful colour that local summer tomatoes have. Not to mention the huge price tag that comes with it.
The best way to eating cheaply is to eat fruit and vegetables that are in season. “In Season” means it is the current growing season for that particular fruit or vegetable. Apples and citrus fruit love the winter chill whilst berries and stone fruit thrive in warmer conditions. When you buy something in season, it is normally available in abundance, which means lower cost to you. Check out a very useful Australian guide at Seasonal Food Guide to see what is seasonal in your area.
So what happens when you want a great tasting salad in winter but do not have average tasting, expensive tomatoes and cucumber in the fridge? Time to look at our winter crops for inspiration. Beetroot, Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, Fennel and Spinach are always at their best this time of year and make great salads. Other ingredients that make great unconventional salad include broccolini, or fruit such as orange, mandarin or pear.
Coleslaw can be transformed from your average carrot and cabbage to spectacular with the addition of fennel, red onion and apple. I also turn to my pantry for inspiration when the unexpected guests arrive. Changing the base ingredient from salad leaves to pasta, rice, lentils or potato means you can use pantry staples and always have something on hand. I will grab a can each of beetroot and lentil to whip up a Beetroot and Lentil Salad. Another favourite of ours is a Roasted Pumpkin & Sweet Potato Salad that makes use of seasonal root vegetables in the pantry and Spinach from the garden. Experiment and don’t be afraid to try something different.