Passing up imported warm-weather fruit to eat locally and seasonally doesn’t mean that you have to cut out
the sweetness of fruit over the winter. Long before it was possible to buy out-of-season produce from thousands of miles away, farmers dried ripe summer fruit to enjoy when fresh produce was scarce.
In addition to having a sweeter, more intense flavor, dried fruit is available all year and can keep for 12 months or more when sealed and stored in the refrigerator. It has a concentrated dose of the nutrients found in fresh fruit, including fiber, iron, calcium, and potassium, though some vitamin C is lost in the drying process. That nutritional density, however, also means that a cup of dried apricots packs more than five times as much sugar as an equal volume of the fresh stuff.
With all that natural sweetness, there’s no need to eat pieces coated with granulated sugar.
If you have year-round farmers’ markets in your area, look for growers who dry and sell their summer crops. Natural-food stores and farm stands are other good places to look. Much commercially dried fruit is treated with sulphur dioxide to preserve the fruit’s original color. If you’re sensitive to sulfites or prefer to avoid preservatives, look for "unsulphured" fruit, which will be gold to brown in color and chewier in texture but no less delicious.
Try adding thinly sliced dried nectarines or halved dried figs to a spinach salad with almonds. Dried cherries, currants, or chopped dried apricots make nice additions to oatmeal, savory grain dishes, baked goods, and stews. Or combine your favorite dried fruits in an easy-to-make compote to add some brightness and warmth to a winter breakfast or dessert.