With the change of season comes a delicious bounty of new crops. While the colder months offer an array of root vegetables perfect for hearty stews, the spring harvest boasts a variety of light and tasty produce perfect for whipping up easy dishes for picnics and barbeques. Take a look at some of what you will soon be seeing at your local grocery store and farmers markets.
While it’s true that you can buy strawberries from the grocery store year-round, these berries are anything but fresh, as they are often shipped from far away places. Even organic strawberries can carry a fair amount of pesticides, since foreign countries’ standards for organic often don’t match the American standard. Keep your eyes open for locally grown, fresh, organic strawberries hitting shelves beginning in April (or in May or even June in the more northerly climates).
One of the first spring vegetables you’ll find is fresh asparagus. An extremely high source of folate, asparagus stalks are first harvested in March to May (again, depending on your climate). These tender green spears are delicious sauteed, stir-fried or thrown right on the grill.
Sugar snap, snow or green peas first come into season in April. These tasty legumes are a good source of plant protein and fiber. Depending on the variety you select, you will get a healthy helping of B vitamins, along with extra zinc in green peas and added vitamin C in the sugar snap and snow varieties.
First harvested in March, these oddly shaped veggies hardly resemble something edible, yet offer a wealth of nutrition. High in iron, potassium, magnesium and folate, artichokes can be added to salads or enjoyed roasted with a savory dip.
An excellent source of plant-based protein, fava beans will help keep you fuller longer. The beans are harvested early in the spring months. Young favas can be eaten shelled and raw, while mature beans must first be skinned as the coating is too tough to eat. Add favas to salads and soups, or incorporate into vegetarian burgers.
A summertime staple, cherries should start hitting supermarket shelves in early May. There’s no end to the dishes you can prepare with these sweet treats. Pies, tarts and cakes incorporate the perfect combination of sweetness and tartness, while raw cherries can be added to salads, spreads and chutneys, or just enjoyed on their own.
A member of the truffle family, these wild mushrooms are a delicacy most often served in finer restaurants or found in specialty stores. Their honeycomb-like texture acts as a sponge, absorbing the flavors of the sauces around them, making them a perfect addition to pasta dishes (remember to use gluten-free pasta). Their nutty flavor adds a unique twist to salads and other veggie combinations.
Hungry yet? Here are a few spring recipes you can whip up using some of these seasonal ingredients.
Simple Asparagus and Morel Mushroom Saute
- 1 bunch organic asparagus
- 1 lb. fresh organic morel mushrooms
- 2 Tbsp. organic butter
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Chopped organic chives, chervil or thyme
- Trim the asparagus and cut the spears into 1-inch lengths.
- Clean the morels by soaking briefly in a large bowl of cool water. Swish them around a bit and then lift the morels out of the water. Small morels can be left whole, larger ones should be cut in half.
- In a large pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the morels and cook, stirring until they start to release their liquid, about 3 minutes. Add the asparagus, cover, and cook until the asparagus is bright green, about 3 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring until most of the liquid in the pan has evaporated and the vegetables are just coated with the sauce, resulting from their liquids mixing with the butter.
- Remove from the heat and season to taste with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Garnish with chives, chervil, or thyme to taste. Serve hot or warm.
Spring Vegetable (Gluten-Free) Couscous
- 4 organic spring onions
- 2 organic lemons
- 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lb. organic fava beans
- 1 lb. organic English peas
- 1/2 lb. organic snap peas
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 4 cups organic chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 cups gluten-free couscous (Lundberg Farms makes a roasted brown rice variety)
- 1/2 cup organic crumbled feta cheese
- Finely chop the onions. Set aside 1/4 of the chopped onion. Place the remaining 3/4 onion in a small bowl.
- To make the spring onion relish: zest 1 of the lemons, being careful to avoid the bitter white pith. Add the zest to the onion. Juice both lemons and add the juice to the onion-zest mixture. Stir in 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set the relish aside.
- Shell, blanch, and re-shell the fava beans. Shell the English peas. Trim and string the snap peas and cut them into 1/2-inch pieces.
- In a medium pot, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the reserved onion and the garlic. Cook, stirring, until the onion and garlic are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous. Cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture is thick but still soupy, about 12 minutes if using roasted brown rice (gluten-free) couscous (if using wheat-based couscous, which we don’t recommend, then cook only 5 minutes). Stir in the peas and snap peas. Continue cooking and stirring another 3 minutes. Add the fava beans. Cook until the couscous and the vegetables are tender, about 1 to 2 more minutes.
- Serve the couscous hot, warm, or at room temperature topped with the spring onion relish and feta cheese.
Artichokes with Roasted Garlic Wine Dip
- 2 whole organic garlic heads
- 4 medium organic artichokes
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup organic vegetable broth
- 1 tbsp. organic butter
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- Chopped fresh organic parsley
- Remove the white papery skin from garlic heads (do not peel or separate the cloves). Wrap each head separately in foil. Bake at 400° for 45 minutes; cool 10 minutes. Separate cloves; squeeze to extract garlic pulp.
- Cut off stems of artichokes, and remove bottom leaves. Trim about 1/2 inch from tops. Place artichokes, stem ends down, in a large Dutch oven filled two-thirds with water; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes or until a leaf near the center of each artichoke pulls out easily. Remove artichokes from pan.
- Combine half of garlic pulp and wine in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes. Add broth; cook until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 8 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in butter and salt. Pour mixture into a blender; add remaining half of garlic pulp. Blend until smooth. Sprinkle dip with parsley. Serve dip with warm artichokes.
-The Alternative Daily