After months of hibernating and eating lots of comfort food, we’re all ready to enjoy the lighter, brighter offerings of spring. And lucky for us, these seven vegetables are coming into season now. They’re all bursting with color and nutrition! Here’s how to add them to your weekly meals.
One of the most highly anticipated spring veggies, these slender stalks are loaded with flavor and nutrients. One cup of cooked asparagus boasts 4 mg of iron, 4 g of fiber, 391 mg of potassium, 85 micrograms of folate, and 31 mg of choline. All that for less than 40 calories — now that’s what I call a bargain! Folate is a heart-healthy nutrient and is also vital for a healthy pregnancy. And choline, a brain-building nutrient, is something that many of us don’t get enough of.
Asparagus is a wonderful pairing with any type of pasta, plus a healthy protein and good fat for a delicious, Mediterranean-inspired meal. Try this herby Spring Pasta Salad with Shrimp that uses orecchiette, or this gorgeous Pasta Primavera.
Crunchy when raw, fennel is also delicious cooked. If you haven’t tried it before, it has a light anise flavor and pairs well with other spring vegetables, herbs, nuts and citrus, as well as seafood. One cup of raw fennel provides 360 mg of potassium and 15 mg of magnesium, two minerals that are great for your ticker.
You can slice the raw fennel bulb and enjoy it as crudité or slice it thinly and sauté it. You can also use the fresh fennel fronds as a garnish. Try fennel in this Roasted Salmon with Green Curry and Fennel, which has a little heat from Thai chile to balance out the richness of the coconut-based curry. Or opt for it raw in this refreshing Fennel, Artichoke, and Grapefruit Salad.
Looking like supersized scallions, with white tips and tough green ends, leeks can be a bit intimidating for the novice cook. You should slice raw leeks lengthwise and wash them thoroughly to remove any dirt that’s trapped between the leaf layers. The prep might seem time-consuming, but the flavor of leeks is worth it — less pungent than onions or garlic, while more flavorful than shallots.
Leeks are also a star in the nutrition department too. They have a surprising amount of calcium (105 mg), as well as the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for eye health. Leeks are perfect for an early spring soup, like Joy Bauer’s Potato-Leek Soup. Or try them in Chef Mark Murphy’s Leeks Vinaigrette, a simple and flavorful side that’s perfect for any spring celebration.
Sweet and tender, peas add a pop of green and punch of protein to so many dishes. The green peas that we eat fresh are English peas, versus the field pea, which is dried and added to lots of foods to boost their protein content. At this time of year, you can find English peas in the pod, as well as shelled and ready to cook. Toss them into salads, pasta dishes and egg dishes for a boost of plant protein (9g per cup), fiber and iron.
Crunchy and spicy, radishes add a pop of color and flavor to anything you add them to. While available year-round, radishes are especially tasty in the spring, including the stunning watermelon variety. Radishes are 95 percent water, so they are incredibly hydrating and great to snack on during warmer days.
These wild, pungent onions are only available from March to July, so get them while you can! While you might be able to find them at the supermarket, you’re more likely to see them at your local farmers market. Look for stalks that are free from slime and discoloration. Because they grow wild instead of being cultivated, there’s very little nutritional data on ramps, but they provide similar benefits to onions, namely disease-fighting flavonoids.
Wash ramps well and trim the roots before cooking or using them raw. Try them in this hearty recipe for Chicken Thighs with Ramps, Peas and Mushrooms or combine them with another spring star in this dish for Scallops with Ramps and Asparagus.
Sugar snap peas
A cross between the English pea and the snow pea, sugar snap peas are a delightful spring treat. Their edible pod is crisp and filled with sweet and juicy peas.
Sugar snaps are best enjoyed raw, as in this Sugar Snap Pea Salad. You can also give them a quick grilling for extra flavor like Martha Stewart does in her Salmon Salad with Sugar Snap Peas, Eggs and Potatoes.
Whatever you “spring” for, I hope you get your fill of these amazing, fresh flavors before we move on to summer produce.