Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last decade, you know the trend in food is fresh and local. As such, farmers markets are booming, agricultural co-ops are all the rage and community and home gardens are flourishing. What we’ve come to learn is farm-to-table eating is healthy and delicious because eating produce at its peak of freshness also means we’re consuming it before nutrients and flavor begin to diminish. By economic standards, buying when supply is at its highest means buying when it’s also at its most affordable.
The challenge is taking advantage when harvest season arrives. If you wait too long, you’ll miss out. Here are five nutrition-packed spring harvest vegetables you may want to grab right now before it’s too late.
These thorny globes are unique for their prebiotics. Prebiotics nourish the natural probiotics in our digestive systems which help to reduce inflammation. They’re also a natural diuretic and digestive aid.
Serving artichokes: We like to steam whole artichokes and consume them, leaf-by-leaf, dipping them in melted butter, garlic-infused olive oil or balsamic vinaigrette, and gently scraping off the tasty meat at the base of each leaf with our teeth. (Don’t forget to carve out and discard the choke when you get down to the heart.) But the diamond in the rough of artichokes is their hearts, which are more delicate in their texture and flavor. Cooked artichoke hearts are delicious tossed into pasta primavera.
Tips: To steam whole artichokes, trim a few inches off the tops and trim down the stems to about one inch. Peel off the tough small leaves near the stem. Steam over simmering water, face down, for approximately one hour. Follow this video to forego the leaves and get at only the hearts before cooking:
These healthy spears come in purple and white in addition to the more familiar green. Consider trying the purple variety if you have picky eaters that turn up noses at green food. They’re packed with folate which keeps blood healthy and is essential for fetus development, particularly in the first trimester. Asparagus is also a good source of vitamin C for an immunity boost.
Cooking asparagus: Trim and discard the woody parts of the stem, about one to two inches from the base, and wash thoroughly. Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet, coat evenly with olive oil spray, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake at a 400° for ten minutes or until they just begin to brown. They’re great served as is, either warm or at room temperature, but you can spruce them up with a drizzle of lemon juice or aged balsamic vinegar or a sprinkling of fresh shaved parmesan cheese.
Tip: Asparagus begins to spoil quickly. Roast them the day you buy them and store in a sealed container in the fridge if you’re not ready to use them right away. Consume within a week.
Like most mushrooms, morels have an earthy flavor and firm texture. But their honeycomb structure make them delicious for the eyes as well. They’re a great source of copper and iron, which work together for blood health. They also contain ample amounts of manganese and phosphorous, nutrients that support bone and dental health.
Cooking morels: You can do anything with morels that you can do with other mushrooms, like soups and bisques. But, given their unique look, it seems a shame to puree them. Sautee them into pasta dishes or warm salads.
Tip: Morels pair well with asparagus.
Radishes hold a special place in my heart because my father always planted these easy-growing root veggies in our garden. A member of the cruciferous family, radishes are good sources of fiber and blood pressure regulating potassium. Even more impressive, they contain isothiocyanates which are phytochemicals believed to combat carcinogens in the body.
Tip: While the more common red radish is gorgeous, experiment with other varieties for a rainbow of colors. They can be found sporting purple, white, pink and stripes.
Bonus: If you can, get your radishes stems and all. The greens are edible and offer vitamin C, protein and calcium. They’re bitter so you don’t want to eat them raw. Sautee or roast them in olive oil and season as you would any other bitter green, such as kale. They have a short shelf life so immediately remove from radish, wash thoroughly, drain, wrap in paper towels to absorb moisture and store in sealed plastic bag in fridge. Eat or cook as soon as possible.
Versatility is the snow peas’ secret weapon because they’re delicious raw as well as cooked. And their sweet flavor and delicate, crunchy texture make them kid-friendly. They’re terrific sources of vitamin C, iron and manganese.
Cooking/serving snow peas: If they’re young enough, you need not do anything to them other than clean them. They’re tender enough to be snacked on raw but sturdy enough to stand up to a gentle heating – such as in a stir-fry or sautéed into pasta, rice or quinoa dishes.
Tip: As snow peas mature and get larger, their spines become woody. After cleaning, use a small knife to trim the stem end and gently pull back to “unzip” the spine from the pod.
Happy spring and happy spring veggie eating!
Sources: fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org, acefitness.org, pcrm.org