With fall gone, local berries and fruits like peaches and plums can no longer grace our plates. That doesn’t mean winter doesn’t have its own delicious offerings for you, your family and your flock. Root vegetables and hardier vegetables like broccoli, turnips and cauliflower now line the bins and shelves in the produce section of your grocery store and farmers markets.
What are the best winter vegetables? Try these eight.
Beets are currently in season and are extremely nutritious. I prefer the golden beets for my birds. I use them in my Chop batches and my African grey parrots seem to be attracted to the bright, almost iridescent color. The color of a golden beet when you slice into it is a beautiful glowing yellow.
Select beets that have a healthy, fresh looking tops as well as root bulbs. Those tops are nutritious too, and can be fed to your flock. Ensure that the beet tops are fresh in appearance and not slimy. A little wilting is to be expected.
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, meaning that it belongs to the cabbage family. It is typically available year-round, but you and your flock will find that it tastes best in the winter. You’ll find its mellow taste more appealing.
.Like broccoli, cauliflower may be available year-round, but it simply tastes better when it is harvested in cooler weather. The way cauliflower grows means the vegetable doesn’t develop nutritious chlorophyll, but it offers other nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids cannot be produced by the body; they must be ingested through eating. They are beneficial in many ways: they reduce inflammation, lower the risk of cancer, and boost the immune system.
While these thin, beige to white root vegetables are not the most popular root vegetable out there, they seem to be making a comeback. The American public is starting to buy produce that fell out of favor and is trying the “Everything old is new again” approach to food. Parsnips have a snappy, somewhat slightly bitter taste that I have come to enjoy. Select thinner parsnips for a more tender texture and interior for the best taste and texture. They are absolutely delicious when roasted in the oven.
Radicchio looks like a miniature purple cabbage, but its leaves are more tender and have a texture like butter lettuce. It has a more bitter taste than cabbage, but this bitterness is less pronounced during the cold weather season.
Kohlrabi has the crispness and crunch of apples or jicama, but it has a different taste. It’s slightly bitter like radishes, but this simply turns the heat up on its inherent sweetness. The entire plant, including the stems and tops, can be consumed so you won’t have any of it go to waste.
Like parsnips, turnips have gotten a bad rap over the years, but are once again on the comeback list. Like many root vegetables, turnips contain stellar amounts of nutrients, including important minerals. They are rich in magnesium, potassium and calcium, as well as phosphorus. They are also very high in fiber.
Sweet potatoes generally come roaring into the supermarkets and farmers markets in just in time for Thanksgiving. These tubers are quite versatile and become more nutritious when cooked or even lightly steamed. Sweet potatoes are great source of Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. According to the article “20 Things You Must Know About Nutrition” veterinarian Margaret Wissman, DVM, of Exotic Pet Vet writes, “Vitamin A is necessary for the immune system to function properly, it is involved in vision and is important for the proper growth of bones, for reproduction and for maintaining healthy mucous membranes.”
However, that vitamin A should come in the form of beta-carotene. Vitamin A on its own can be toxic if the parrot overdoses on it. Beta-carotene, however, is safe.
“Beta-carotene is a non-toxic form of a precursor of vitamin A,” Dr. Wissman writes. “When ingested, the body turns what it needs into vitamin A and the rest passes out of the body unchanged.”
Sweet potatoes are also a good source of fiber, potassium, phosphorus, as well as vitamins B1 and B2. Luckily, parrots seem to really like them.
Try some of these winter vegetables for your birds. They are a tasty and inviting addition to their meals and they have so much to offer due to their nutritional content.