Have you noticed the price of cauliflower lately? I kid, of course you have. In fact, if the internet is any indication, there is no one who hasn't noticed the outrageous cost of a tiny head of cauliflower. There are memes, cartoons, and tweets all dealing with this very important subject. Some discuss taking out a loan or second mortgage to buy cauliflower, others dream of winning the Powerball lotto just to have the roasted cauliflower meal of their dreams.
I really had no idea so many people ate that much cauliflower. Why isn't my Cauliflower Kung Pao more popular?
Here's the thing: it's winter. Produce in winter SHOULD be more expensive, because it has a long way to travel. Pair that with the fact that there is a drought in California and the Canadian dollar is testing all-time lows, and you have yourself a perfect storm for costly vegetables.
I hate to break it to everyone, but as a society we have become very spoiled in terms of produce expectations in the middle of the winter. It wasn't long ago when it would be absolutely unheard of to eat cherries in the winter, or asparagus at any time other than spring. When I was a kid I had never even heard of an avocado, and now I feel slighted if I can't get one of the exact ripeness I want whenever I want it. We rage about the cost of fresh vegetables, forgetting that this is the reason our grandmothers "put up" vegetables after fall harvest, just to make it through winter.
Well, if our grandmothers could live for months on home-canned tomatoes and sauerkraut, we can certainly make do with the situation at hand - without breaking the bank. Here's how.
Surprisingly, boxed greens such as spinach, arugula, mixed baby greens, and kale have not increased in price since the fall. This is the perfect time to fall back in love with hearty salads, or consider blending up spinach or kale to make a smoothie for an energy explosion. Mushrooms, zucchini, and avocado have all stayed relatively stable in price as well.
It's a great time to be reintroduced to root vegetables which, after all, are the ultimate winter fare. Carrots, turnips, parsnips, beets, and rutabagas can all be had at great prices - try roasting them or making "fries" for a tasty side dish. Think outside the (produce) box: at a Ukrainian Christmas celebration recently, the hostess had roasted beets and added them to hummus. Sounds crazy? It was. CRAZY GOOD.
Frozen vegetables are just as nutritious - if not more - than fresh ones, given that they are usually frozen mere hours after being picked, rather than riding on a truck for days. There are so many different medleys and blends these days; a delicious stir-fry or tasty curry is just moments away! Another great benefit: no chopping!
The other day a pint of cherry tomatoes was $7.99 at my local grocery; at Costco two pounds of them were selling for $5.98. If you can shop around and price compare, you can score some great deals - even for those non-seasonal, far-travelling vegetables.
How many of us have purchased vegetables with the best of intentions, only to have them spoil in the crisper before we have a chance to use them. Before you load up your grocery cart, stop. Think about exactly what you will make with the vegetable in your hand, and when you will make it. Have a plan, and then carry through. After all, if you're splurging on a pricey veggie, you don't want to end up with that pricey veggie in the compost bin.
Even if it feels like it lasts forever, winter will end. In a few short months we will all be able to gorge on local asparagus and strawberries, and shortly after that, we will all be enjoying my Cauliflower Kung Pao once again. What? You've never tried it? Well, let's talk again in May.