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Give your cold-weather menus a kick with interesting winter fruits and veggies.

It may seem like slim pickings in the produce section in the wintertime. But if you look a little closer, you'll find a cornucopia of winter fruit and vegetable choices. We all know the winter holiday season is prime time for produce like cranberries and yams. But have you considered persimmons, kiwi, oranges, pears, or rutabagas? And here's the kicker: All these winter choices have notable nutritional attributes, including scores of healthful phytochemicals.

Here are 15 fruits and vegetables that tend to be available during the winter season, including some year-round favorites. Keep in mind that no matter which fruit you're buying, choose fruit that feels heavy for its size and has no sign of molding, deterioration, or bruising.

Asian Pear (September-December for the Yali type, October-March for Korean type)

Nutrition Tip: One Asian pear contains 4 grams of fiber (a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber), and almost 10% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C.

Storage Tip: These fruits are picked when they are almost ripe, so handle them gently. Use quickly after purchase or refrigerate for one to two months.

Prep Tip: Use them raw in salads, as a snack with cheese, or as a dipper for fondue. Use them cooked in crisps and other desserts, muffins, and entrees.

Cooking Tip: The thin-skinned Korean pears don't have to be peeled before cooking. They can be cut into round slices or wedges, chopped, or even grated. The center core can be removed with an apple corer. Asian pears usually require longer cooking times than regular pears because of their crunchy texture.

Cranberries (October-November)

Nutrition Tip: One half cup of uncooked cranberries contains 2 grams of fiber (mostly insoluble fiber), and 9% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C.

Storage Tip: Pick out any soft or moldy berries, then refrigerate the rest in a plastic bag for up to seven days. They can be frozen in bags if you won't be using them right away.

Prep Tip: Cranberries can be used whole. Just rinse them briefly in cold water. Use them as an accent fruit in pies and crisps, pudding, and jams, and as a featured ingredient in muffins, breads, cakes, and sauces.

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