Your Guide to Cooking with Winter Fruit
Season: September to February
Why Try It: “The arils—or seed pods—inside are fun for kids to eat,” says Marie Spano, R.D., a sports nutritionist in Atlanta. Toddlers can even pick them up with their fingers. They’re rich in some of the same types of diseasefighting nutrients, anthocyanins, contained in out-of-season berries; plus, they’re packed with fiber.
Look For: a few that are around the same size, and buy the one that feels the heaviest (a sign it’ll be juicy). The color of the rind doesn’t make a difference in determining ripeness. Store in the fridge for up to three weeks.
Serve: Stir seeds into Greek yogurt and freeze in ice-cube trays, or fill celery sticks with ricotta cheese and top with pomegranate seeds for a twist on ants on a log.
Season: All year, with fruit from California available October to May
Why Try It: “Kids are usually pleasantly surprised by what it looks like on the inside, and they like the flavor,” says Cathy Thomas, author of Melissa’s 50 Best Plants on the Planet. Plus, their body can absorb the antioxidants in kiwifruit more easily than those in strawberries, red grapes, and other kid favorites, according to a study from the USDA’s Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center, in Little Rock. Eating kiwifruit before bedtime may also improve sleep quality and duration, noted a study from Taiwan.
Look For: plump, fragrant fruit that yields to slight pressure when pressed with your thumb.
Serve: Slice it in half and give your kids a little spoon to scoop out the flesh. Or peel the kiwifruit and put round slices on ice-pop sticks served with a yogurt dip. For dinner, toss bite-size pieces of kiwifruit into a Waldorf salad.
Season: All year
Why Try It: Picky eaters who don’t like the texture of some fruits like the soft—almost buttery—texture of mangoes. The Kent variety (with green skin) and Ataúlfos (yellow skin) tend to be the creamiest. This tropical fruit is packed with vitamins A and C, and it’s rich in folate, a nutrient that helps cell division and produces red blood cells.
Look For: a mango that gives slightly when you gently press it.
Serve: Stand the mango upright and slice, then make a crisscross pattern in the mango flesh and pull down on each side. That will give you a football-shaped mango—and the kids can pull off the pieces. Or combine an equal amount of mango puree and milk; pour into small ice-pop molds and freeze.
Season: November to July
Why Try It: “It’s the most underrated fruit—families don’t realize how nutritious and versatile it is,” says Thomas. She advises that you tell your children it tastes like an “inside-out orange,” because the edible skin is sweet and the flesh is a tad tart. Kumquats supply the nutrients you’d expect from citrus—like vitamins A and C—plus antioxidants such as cancer-fighting lutein and zeaxanthin, which are typically found in vegetables. Don’t peel because the skin is packed with fiber and oils such as anti-inflammatory limonene.
Look For: firm, bright-orange fruit with smooth skin; greenish color is a sign that it hasn’t properly ripened.
Serve: Thinly slice and remove the one or two larger seeds the fruit is likely to have. Place the slices on small toasted breads spread with ricotta cheese. Or add chopped kumquats to salsa.
Season: September to February
Why Try It: They tend not to darken when sliced, holding up better in a lunch box or a salad than European pear varieties like Bosc and Bartlett. Their thin skin and crispy texture also appeal to kids. By choosing Asian pears over the common European varieties, you’ll receive a bit of extra heart-healthy fiber and potassium for fewer calories and less sugar.
Look For: firm, unbruised fruit; some supermarkets actually sell the pears in a mesh cover to protect their skin. Store up to a week at room temp or three months in the fridge—unlike other pear varieties, they won’t soften.
Serve: Wrap ham slices around pear wedges, or thinly slice and add to your favorite coleslaw recipe.
Season: Year-round but peaks December to April
Why Try It: If your kids love sour candy, tart grapefruit is a healthier—yet equally colorful—alternative. If not, opt for the sweeter new varieties, like White Gold and Sweet Scarlett’s. All grapefruits are packed with antioxidants that help stabilize blood-glucose levels. People who eat half a grapefruit before meals have a significantly lower bloodsugar level two hours later than those who don’t, potentially lowering their risk of diabetes, according to a study at Scripps Clinic in San Diego. One caveat: If your child (or you) are taking any prescriptions, including some antihistamines, check with your doctor; grapefruit doesn’t mix well with some meds.
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Look For: round, heavy fruit without soft spots or deep blemishes.
Serve: Broil it to bring out extra sweetness: To serve four, sprinkle four halves with 1 to 2 tsp. of brown sugar or honey and top with ¼ tsp. cinnamon each. Place them on a parchment-lined baking tray. Broil until slightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Kids should also enjoy grapefruit parfaits: Alternate layers of grapefruit segments with plain Greek yogurt and whole-grain cereal or low-sugar granola. Drizzle with a little bit of honey
Season: Year-round but peaks January to March
Why Try It: Several fun varieties, like red blood orange and pinkish Cara Caras, are only available in the winter and early spring. “Cara Caras have a delicate berry-like flavor,” says Thomas. “And the flavor of Moros, the most common variety of blood oranges, might also remind kids of raspberries.” Both blood and Cara Cara oranges contain healthy plant compounds that aren’t present in other varieties of oranges. Cara Caras deliver lycopene, the cancer fighter found in watermelon, while blood oranges provide anthocyanins, the heart-healthy antioxidant that’s abundant in berries.
Look For: firm, shiny, heavy oranges; they tend to be the juiciest. Avoid ones with soft spots because they’ll spoil faster.
Serve: Slice different colors of oranges, grapefruits, and other types of citrus. Arrange them on a pretty platter—Cornell University research shows that children are likely to consume more of a food when there are multiple hues. Or hollow out large oranges and fill with salad made with various kinds of citrus.