As days grow colder and nights grow longer it is easy to crave warming food. Yet fresh, seasonal winter vegetables can be used to create salads which are meals in themselves or accompaniments to cooked dishes. Home grown English winter vegetables which are great in salads include beansprouts (you can grow your own indoors all year round), beetroot, cabbage, carrot, celery, leeks, mushrooms and watercress. Winter salads are often sweetened with apples or dried fruits – raisins are common; this harks back to days in England before we had conveniences such as fridges when vegetables would be preserved in sugar and vinegar and cooks would mix fruits and vegetables when making salads.
The BBC Farmer of the Year 2012 was Guy Watson from Riverford Organic Farms. The award honoured his commitment to organic, locally sourced, seasonal vegetables. He was at the forefront of organic box schemes – delivering fresh vegetables direct to consumers in their homes; such schemes often offer recipe suggestions. Fresh, seasonal salads, particularly in the depths of winter, can be colourful, flavoursome, nourishing and satisfying.
Adapt the salad suggestions below to the ingredients you have available.
Chopped beetroot, grated carrot and onion dressed with oil and vinegar.
Grated beetroot, grated cheese and chopped parsley mixed with cooked rice. Dress with oil and vinegar.
Thinly sliced beetroot, red cabbage and apple. Dress with lemon juice and oil.
Chopped cabbage, chopped hard boiled egg, raisins and walnuts or toasted seeds. Dress with oil and vinegar.
Shredded cabbage, grated carrot, thinly sliced celery and finely chopped onion. Dress with lime juice mixed with a clove of crushed garlic. For an alternative closer to coleslaw dress with mayonnaise or yoghurt and fresh herbs.
Grated carrot, apple and cheddar cheese mixed with lemon juice (mix the latter with the apple as soon as it is grated to prevent browning).
Grated carrot mixed with a little lemon juice, raisins and toasted sesame seeds.
Grated carrot mixed with chopped parsley, garlic, ground cumin and lemon juice.
Watercress does not need to be mixed with other vegetables to create a good salad - try it with different dressings such as oil, vinegar, garlic and sugar or oil, garlic and lemon juice.
Watercress mixes well with other leaves including rocket and spinach (the season for the latter in England is normally May-November). It also mixes well with herbs such as chives, coriander and parsley.
Top soups with a scattering of winter salad vegetables to add texture and colour. Try beansprouts, grated carrot or finely chopped beetroot, brussels sprouts or leeks; top pale or green soups with a sprig of watercress.