Veggies to Look For NOW

As Winter sort of peters out (at least for MOST people) and Spring starts to spring we can start looking for the first great early-Spring veggies to show up fresh at your grocer and at your favorite farmers markets. I thought it would be a good time to highlight just a few of the best early-Spring vegetables to be looking for. (Of course, this all depends on where you live - so some of these may appear a few weeks earlier or later…but soon!).

Spinach

Popeye was right! This is one of the world’s healthiest vegetables - especially fresh. Really. Avoid the canned stuff. Fresh is SO much better. It has tons of vitamin K (great for bone health). It also has plenty of antioxidant nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, zinc, selenium, and manganese.

And it’s easy to prepare. Saute it. Throw it into salads, soups, or pastas.

Choose spinach that has vibrant deep green leaves and stems with no signs of yellowing. The leaves should look fresh and tender, and not be wilted or bruised. Avoid those that have a slimy coating as this is an indication of decay.

As with other leafy vegetables, don’t wash spinach before storing it. The exposure to water encourages spoilage. Just Place it in a plastic storage bag and wrap the bag tightly around the spinach, squeezing out as much of the air as possible. Place in refrigerator where it will keep fresh for up to 5 days. I also put a dry paper towel in there to absorb excess moisture.

And here are a few awesome recipes to try out:

Bok Choy

Bok what? Bok choy. A staple of Asian cuisine. It’s a member of the cabbage family - and one of the most nutrition-rich veggies there is.

It has nine calories per cup. Yup. Only NINE! And it has lots of beta-carotene (vitamin A), vitamin C, loads of antioxidants and omega-3s, zinc, and lutein (good for those peepers).

It has a mild, sweet taste and cooks up easily (and is often steamed).

Now this might be one Spring veggie you could use some ideas for, so here are a few recipes you may like:

Asparagus

Right about now asparagus shoots are starting to break through the soil and reach their 6-8 inch harvest length. In many parts of the U.S. their peak season is April-July. One thing to know about asparagus is that their shelf-life is not very long, so be sure to consume them pretty soon after buying them.

Nutritionally, you know that vitamin K I’ve been talking about? Asparagus blows the roof off it (101% of daily RDA). And because of its unique combination of anti-inflammatory nutrients it’s considered an anti-inflammatory food. It also contains a significant amounts of the nutrient inulin which provides digestive support.

Need a few recipes to inspire you? Here's a couple:

Scallions or Green Onions

In case you are wondering, yes, scallions and green onions are the same thing. They are members of the onion family. 

And scallions are another one of those vitamin K winners -- 1 cup contains 259% of the U.S. RDA. 

Choose those with crisp, bright green tops and a firm white base. Store, wrapped in a plastic bag, in the vegetable crisper section of the refrigerator for up to five days. Scallions can be cooked whole as a vegetable much as you would a leek. They can also be chopped and used in salads, soups and a multitude of other dishes for flavor. And although many people choose to use only the white parts, the entire vegetable is edible. Slice up those green parts thinly and toss into soups, stews, stir-frys, salads, etc.

Typically, green onions are a piece of a recipe. Well, here are a few in which their flavor shines through:

Spring Peas

Peas grow best in cooler weather. So, start looking for them now (depending on where you live). Fresh peas including sugar snap peas, snow peas, and green peas are at their peak from April through July. Look for pods that are crisp, with no blemishes or signs of wilting.

Peas are best served right after harvest – the sugars convert to starch the longer you get from the harvest date before eating - and the taste just loses it’s freshness and doesn’t quite measure up to those early spring peas. 

Nutritionally peas are a good source of plant protein. Their nutritional profile depends a little on the variety. Green peas provide more B vitamins and zinc, while snow and snap peas offer more vitamin C.

As far as prep, I feel that simpler is better to maintain flavor. They do best when they're cooked very quickly, with as little water as possible. This keeps their sugars and their flavors intact. If you boil them the sugars will dissolve and flavor will be lost. In my opinion, steaming just until they became tender or a quick stir-fry works great.

OK, peas go with just about anything. But here are a few recipes in which the play a starring role:

And just for good measure…here’s one more you may be less familiar with: Ramps. Ramps are also known as "wild leeks" if that tells you anything. They may be less familiar and may be harder to get your hands on. It may be one of those speciality produce market or farmers market finds. And March to June is the time you’re more likely to find them. 

These little guys are a little hard to put your finger on. They are not leeks. They are not scallions. They look a lot like scallions and are roughly the same size - but with flat leaves. The entire plant can be eaten. They taste stronger than a leek and pack more of a garlicky punch than scallions. They also tend to be foraged; kind of like truffles. They are a delicacy. One you may want to give a try if you can find them.

And here are a few recipes to get you started enjoying their ramp-y, garlicky goodness:

Now I know that many vegetables are now available at your market year round. But there are some that just scream out “Spring is Here!” And these are a few of my favorites. Some of them just tend to taste better earlier in the Spring. Others have a pretty short window in which they are at their absolute best.
WELCOME TO SPRING!!!