Spring has sprung and so has the fresh produce. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are popping up all over local grocery stores and Farmers’ Markets.
Do you find yourself aching for asparagus? Sweet on strawberries? Gung-ho for greens?
Then seize the moment and sample the freshest this season has to offer.
I like to switch out my tried-and-true favorites every year and try something different - on my list this year: dandelion greens, fava beans, turnips (they make a great mashed potato addition), beets and cherries. And with much of our Spring produce grown right here in Texas, fresh items are pretty easy to find.
Here’s a guide to a few of my top choices along with some favorite recipes. Let me know if you have a favorite one and recipe.
Greens, greens and more greens
I’m talking spinach, arugula, chard, mustard and salad greens - early spring is greens season and if you haven’t warmed up to them yet, now is the time. Not only are they delicious, but they also provide ample amounts of vitamins A and C, iron, fiber and bone-building calcium (which is great if you don’t consume much milk or cheese).
I love arugula; it is my favorite green. Check out easy Arugula, Grape and Sunflower Seed Salad; or if you’re into the more pungent greens, try Gnocchi with Chard & White Beans – an easy, one-dish pasta for busy nights.
Those long, skinny asparagus spears are chock-full of folate (essential for the baby’s growth and development throughout pregnancy); they're also high in vitamins A, E and C (helps protect against cancer and heart disease). One of my favorite recipes is Asparagus Salad With Beans & Feta – no need to cook the asparagus if you use young, thin stalks.
Broccoli rabe resembles little broccoli florets with big leaves. But the flavor is sharper and more pronounced than broccoli. It’s immensely popular in Italy and it is catching on here in America. Rabe offers tons of nutrition – it’s high in vitamin K, which is essential for healthy bones, and is a good source of fiber and calcium. Try out this trendy veggie in Broccoli Rabe and White Bean Soup (omit the cheese rind if you want; I usually do).
Taste freshly shelled peas, and you’ll never go back to frozen again. This late-Spring veggie is truly delectable – sweet and crunchy, that literally bursts in your mouth. And a healthy burst, at that: peas are an excellent source of fiber and folate. They are easy to shell and, if they are very young, you can just zip open the pod and eat them out of hand – no cooking required.
Peas can be added to anything: pastas, salads, omelets, risottos, whatever. I like this simple Spring Pea Salad. Perfect for a weekend lunch.
Fresh, ripe berries – strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries – seriously, can you get any better than that? And nutritionally speaking, berries are standouts. One cup of strawberries provides 100% vitamin C along with the cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene. Blue, black and raspberries are full of fiber and vitamin C and are some of the heart-healthiest fruits you can eat.
Try this Brunch Parfait recipe; it's divine. I usually add blueberries or whatever I have on hand. And the kids absolutely inhale it.
Texas mangoes typically come from Mexico this time of year. Tropical, lush and fruity, eating a mango feels exotic and calls for a special recipe. And the deep yellow color indicates a rich source of vitamin A (essential for healthy eyes and skin). Mangoes are also high in fiber and heart-healthy potassium.
If you’ve been avoiding this yummy fruit because of its “difficult-to-cut” reputation, be afraid no longer - it’s actually quite easy. Follow these steps, then check out this Grilled Shrimp and Mango Salad. If you don’t want to grill outdoors, try an indoor stovetop grill.
Apricots start to make an appearance in the late Spring, but their peak season is short and sweet so take full advantage while you can. It’s a velvety tasting fruit, with a beautiful yellow-rose hue. And like mangoes, apricots are an excellent source of vitamin A and are full of fiber. I actually never have cooked these little jewels – my family and I love to eat them fresh, right out of hand.
Is rhubarb a fruit or veggie? The debate raged for years; even U.S. customs officials just guessed back in the 1940’s when they chose to classify it as a fruit. After all, it was typically used that way – and still is today. Botanically speaking, however, rhubarb is really a vegetable.
Full of fiber, heart-healthy catechins and vitamin C, rhubarb is that long, red, stalky-looking thing you see in the produce section. It looks kind of weird raw (and trust me, you do not want to attempt to eat that sour stalk), but when cooked, rhubarb turns out sweet, tender and flavorful – perfect in all sorts of pies, cobblers and sauces. Check out cookinglight.com or eatingwell.com for easy, refreshing recipes.