Monday, April 27, 2015


Spring vegetables — get them while you can

It’s hard not to smile when you see that first robin hopping about in the grass, hear the long-forgotten sound of chirping frogs at dusk or smell those first brave daffodils as they poke their way through the snow.  After a long winter, the signs of spring are so exciting to the senses!
And what better way to awaken your sleeping senses than to enjoy the vibrant flavors of the season?  One of the best things about the coming of spring is that it means more fresh produce is available and our steady diet of root vegetables is over — or at least not so steady. 
Spring is often a seemingly short season, with both winter and summer encroaching upon it on both sides.  So it follows naturally that many of the spring vegetables are only locally available for a short time.  All the more reason to appreciate the following delectable delicacies while you can!
Asparagus. If you have an asparagus patch, you know that you have a relatively short time in the spring to harvest your bounty before it goes to seed.  While modern advances have made asparagus available in grocery stores for much of the year now, the flavor of fresh-picked local asparagus just can’t be beat.  It’s excellent in stir fries as well as roasted, steamed or grilled (now that the grill is no longer under two feet of snow).
Fiddleheads. These curly tendrils are actually the new sprouts of certain fern plants and can be foraged (by experienced foragers only) or purchased in many natural foods stores and some large chain grocers.  They are absolutely scrumptious when lightly steamed or sautéed in olive oil and seasonings.  The beauty and tragedy of these charming veggies is that they are only available for a few short weeks each year, generally in April or May.
Greens. Many leafy greens are salad-ready in May and June.  And not just your run-of-the-mill lettuce and spinach, but arugula, mustard and even dandelion greens.  You can steam or sauté them of course, but I have to say, nothing beats the flavor explosion when you bite into that first colorful locally-grown green salad of the year!
Scapes. I was recently introduced to these tasty treats by a friend who is a garden-guru and now I am in love.  Sprouting from the bulbs, these green tendrils are the would-be flowers of garlic or onion plants, but gardeners remove them to encourage the growth of the root vegetable.  They can be used in any dish that calls for onions or garlic and have a slightly milder and more complex flavor.
Snow peas. As the name suggests, these pioneering little veggies are often one of the first to be available in springtime.  These peppy pods are superb steamed, in stir fries or simply munched raw with your favorite dip or dressing.
Jennifer Fetterley is a registered dietitian for the Backus Health System and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Fetterley or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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