Buying produce when it’s in season means it tastes better and usually costs less. With the advent of year-round harvesting and the ability to ship virtually anywhere in the world, you can get practically any type of produce you want, anytime you want, in your local grocery store. Along with the warmer Spring temperatures comes a season lush with leafy greens, which makes it the perfect time of year to experiment with spicing up your salads or loading up on high-volume veggies!
Instead of letting convenience and constant availability dictate what’s on your plate, consider the benefits of eating seasonally.
From the moment produce is picked, its nutrient value starts to diminish. When fruits and vegetables are available outside of their season, it typically means they are grown in non-optimal weather conditions or shipped from other locations, taking longer to get from the farm to your plate. While there are methods for preserving shelf-life of produce (e.g., refrigerating, canning, and freezing), it is optimal to source your produce in season and locally to reap their full health benefits.
When fruits and vegetables are in season, they tend to taste better. Just picture biting into a juicy strawberry or tomato in season that is filled with flavor compared to one that is grown out of season, lacking in flavor and often bitter. It is no mystery why Pete’s Paleo (along with many smart restaurants and chefs) switch their menus each season to highlight seasonal ingredients.
Check out our seasonal Spring menu here >>>>>>>>
When produce is in season, there is usually more supply available, which typically decreases demand and prices. Produce purchased out-of-season is generally pricier due to transport and storage costs.
This guide gives you the dirt on our top 15 favorites for this Spring along with some tips on how choose the best specimens, store them, and use them.
Look For: Firm, closed artichokes with thick stalks (which mean large hearts). Bronze-colored frost marks are okay; skip those that have turned black.
Store: Keep loose in the refrigerator for up to several days.
Use: Especially sweet and tender in spring, the artichoke's core is all heart. Little ones have no prickly chokes, which makes for easy prep; purple varieties are pretty. Steam or sauté in your favorite cooking fat. Eat alone or add to salads and sides.
Look For: Firm, straight stems and tightly closed buds. Avoid spears that are shriveled or wet or that have thick, woody stalks.
Store: Wrap the cut ends in a damp paper towel and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Use: Rinse to remove sand from the tips. Snap off or trim the bottoms (no need to peel). For an easy lunch, boil asparagus, then run under cold water to cool. Drizzle with olive oil and fresh lemon juice and sprinkle with chopped hard-cooked eggs and chives.
Look For: Whole, unbroken leaves with no signs of wilting or browning. Avoid loose leaf lettuces that appear wet; they decay quickly when moist.
Store: Keep unwashed greens in a plastic bag in the vegetable drawer. Apples and pears give off ethylene gas, which turns lettuce brown – store away from these.
Use: Don’t get complicated. Simply dress with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper to let the flavor shine.
Look For: A uniform color -a deeper red equals a sweeter taste. An exception is Rainier cherries, which have a creamy yellow and red exterior. Be sure that the fruit is plump and firm, with unblemished, glossy skins.
Store: Keep cherries unwashed in a bowl or an open plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Use: Pit them and toss them with fresh mint, then serve with coconut whipped cream and shaved dark chocolate for dessert.
Look For: Tightly closed buds and avoid plants that are shriveled, wet or appear woody. They grow only in the eastern half of North America from Canada to Virginia and peak for about two weeks sometime between April and July (depending on the region).
Store: Wrap loosely and keep refrigerated. Use as soon as possible.
Use: Fiddleheads are best cooked by a quick blanch and sauté. Pair them with morel mushrooms, often in season around the same time and a good complement to their flavor.
Look For: Smooth, bright green beans with velvety skins. Bend one in half to make sure it snaps; a bit of moisture at the breaking point shows freshness. If you can see the beans clearly through the pods, they were picked past their prime.
Store: Refrigerate fresh beans in a tightly sealed container to keep them moist.
Use: Fresh green beans are great steamed, seasoned and drizzled with olive oil. Alternately, try coating them in a little sesame oil, coconut aminos, and red pepper flakes and roast at 400° F for 10 to 15 minutes for a savory side.
Look For: Slim, straight plants with newly formed bulbs and bright greens are mildest and most tender.
Store: Refrigerate in a loose plastic bag. Green garlic tastes best while it's fresh, but will keep more than a week.
Use: Young plants, with their slender bulbs and leek-like greens, add gentle garlic flavor to soups, sautés, and seafood.
Look For: Damp but not wet, spongy mushrooms that feel soft to the touch and don't show any signs of shriveling. Fresh morels will smell slightly funky and "woodsy."
Store: Store your morels loose, in the refrigerator, in a container with plenty of ventilation. Do not seal them in a bag.
Use: Morels cannot be eaten raw. You can cook them the same as you would any mushroom (fry, sauté, grill). A simpler morel mushroom recipe is often better. You don't want their unique taste to be drowned out by too many spices or strong ingredients. Let the morel be the center of the dish.
Look For: Choose any size, any color that's firm, bright, and unblemished with thin, almost translucent skin that's flaking in spots.
Store: Keep in a paper bag in a cool, dark place for up to several days.
Use: Steam, pan or oven roast or boil, crush and then roast. Dress new potatoes as soon as they are cooked to help them absorb the flavours of the fats, acid and seasonings.
Look For: Ripe snow peas should be light green and almost translucent, with tiny seeds. The pods of garden peas should be glossy, crunchy, sweet, and full of medium-size peas. Sugar snaps should be bright green with plump pods.
Store: Keep all varieties unwashed and loosely wrapped in plastic in the vegetable drawer. Leave garden peas in their pods until you are ready to use them.
Use: Snow peas and sugar snap peas can be eaten whole after removing the stems and the strings. Garden peas should be shelled and blanched in boiling water just until they turn bright green (1 to 2 minutes). Try them smashed with olive oil, dill and black pepper and use as a spread or a dip.
Look For: No cracks, a firm texture, and crisp, bright leaves (if they are still attached).
Store: Remove the leaves. Refrigerate radishes in a loosely closed plastic bag.
Use: Just before using, trim the stems and the root ends and wash. Eat raw or slice and place cut side down in pan with some delicious fat and roast lightly.
Look For: Look for leaves that seem fresh, rather than wilted.
Store: Store freshly picked, uncleaned ramps at room temperature with their bulbs submerged in water. Use within 3 days before the leaves start to wilt. Wrap cleaned ramps loosely in moist paper towels, store sealed in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Use: Once cleaned, the entire plant can be eaten, and they're packed with garlicky flavor. Roast or grill them whole under high heat which will render the bulbs tender, while making for some seriously crispy leaves. Try making a pesto with walnuts, olive oil, and whole ramps (blanch the greens first).
Look For: Bright green tops and firm, white bases. A no-no: wet, wilted tops.
Store: Keep bunches unwashed and wrapped in a plastic bag in the vegetable drawer.
Use: Wash just before using and trim the roots. Delicious grilled whole, seasoned simply with olive oil, salt, and pepper and cooked until tender (about 4 minutes).
Look For: The crinkly leaves of savory spinach are more flavorful (though a bit tougher) than the flat-leaf variety. Whichever kind you choose, look for a deep, dark color and unbroken leaves with no signs of wilting or yellowing.
Store: Refrigerate spinach unwashed and loosely wrapped in a plastic bag.
Use: Chop off the root ends and thick stems, then swish the leaves in a bowl of cold water to rinse. Serve raw, tossed with boiled egg, walnuts, oil, and vinegar.
Look For: Shiny, bright red, and fragrant berries. Opt for smaller fruits, since bigger berries tend to be less juicy.
Store: Wrap the container of remaining unwashed berries loosely in a plastic bag or paper towel and store in the refrigerator.
Use: Wash the berries and trim off the caps just before using. Top with fresh coconut whipped cream or drizzle balsamic vinegar and serve with a Paleo baked treat.
If you are wondering how to find out what other produce is available for Spring (or any season for that matter), visit your local farmers’ market or look at the Sustainable Table online guide.
All Pete’s Paleo meals are seasonally and locally sourced from farmers we know, ensuring you get thr highest quality, best tasting ingredients in our delicious meals. Tough to find the best seasonal ingredients? No time to cook? Order your meals HERE – no apron required.
Eating seasonally will help to create more variety in the types of fruits and vegetables that you consume. It’s time to enjoy all of the wonderful spring produce and the many different ways that you can use these ingredients in your weekly meal selections. Bon appétit!