When the day lengthens and the ground warms, spring is upon us. There’s an unspoiled tenderness to the season’s bounty, and it fades far too quickly. Getting in the habit of cooking seasonal produce is a good way to shake up your diet and keep your meals interesting and varied year-round.
Some spring veggies, like baby carrots (not to be confused with the ubiquitous peeled, pre-washed, finger-size variety) and new potatoes, continue to be available in later months in their more mature form. But others, like ramps and English peas, make an appearance for only a short time before disappearing for another year. Here are a few of my favorite get-'em-while-you-can spring vegetables.
These tightly coiled, edible ferns (which eventually become the green plants no one eats) have a woody, grassy flavor similar to asparagus or green beans. They last only two days in the fridge, so use them as soon as you get them. Snip off an inch from the bottom then simmer, steam, or sauté them with lemon before serving.
You'll find fresh fava beans from spring to early summer only. When you do get your hands on them, you'll need to shell them twice--once from the pod and again from the tough skin surrounding each bean. With their nutty flavor and meaty texture, fava beans can be sautéed then mashed, tossed into pasta, or puréed into a dip.
This is a kind of wild onion. Both the greens and the bulb can be eaten--they taste like a cross between garlic and leeks. Ramps are always foraged, so they can be hard to come by. And they're pungent, so trend carefully if you're serving them raw. Substitute for leeks, scallions, or onions.
Bright green in color with a sweet taste and crunch texture, English peas begin converting their sugar to starch as soon as they're picked, so buy them fresh. In the pod, they'll keep in the fridge for two days. Blanch quickly and add to salads, or simmer and purée them into a soup.
Want to find out find out how to eat seasonally all year long?