Nutrition Articles

What to Eat This Spring

Enjoy the Season's Freshest Foods

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In the US, we enjoy practically unlimited access to any food any time of the year. Although it's nice to have watermelon in February and asparagus in August, many people don't even know that foods have a season, let alone what foods are in season at any given time of year.

But in the food world, local is the new exotic. Farmer’s markets are popping up in every neighborhood as consumers are realizing the benefits of eating food that was grown within miles of their mouths. Local food boasts a host of benefits, including better flavor, higher nutritional value, and less environmental burden. It's healthier for you because you get the higher nutrient levels from just-picked produce. It's healthier for the environment because local food uses less fossil fuel for transport. It tastes better because it really is fresh (not shipped-from-across-the-country-yet-still-bearing-a-label-that-says-fresh). And it’s also interesting, as each season brings a new crop of foods that you haven't had for an entire year. Before you've had a chance to tire of its bounty, the season changes to bring new, flavorful foods.

If you want to eat healthy, home-cooked meals without all the fuss, try a seasonal pantry makeover! To do it, stock up on locally-grown foods—a fun trip to your local farmer's market will yield the majority of the ingredients you need—and simply create meals based on what's in season in your region.

Availability will vary from region to region, but here's a list of foods that make spring their season, along with tips on how to incorporate the new-to-you ingredients into your meals. 

Spring Vegetables
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Artichokes. A perfect springtime appetizer, serve artichokes that have been boiled until tender (about an hour) with homemade garlic butter for dipping. Or add cooked artichokes to pasta sauce, pizza or salads.

Asparagus. Although you can pick up asparagus at the supermarket any time of the year, it never tastes as good as freshly-harvested springtime asparagus. Grill, steam, or braise, and sprinkle with some kosher salt for a simple side-dish.

Carrots. Pair them with peanut butter for a quick and healthy midday snack, or make a side dish like glazed carrots for a gourmet dinner.

Collards. Abundant spring through fall, this dark leafy green is the main ingredient in famous southern greens recipes. Collards are also a rich source of calcium.

Fennel. Fennel slightly resembles celery, with a bulbous base, which is the part that you eat. Chop into small spears and sauté in olive oil and minced garlic until tender, then sprinkle with minced fresh parsley and cook a minute more.

Morels. These wild mushrooms are so treasured, there’s even a website dedicated to morel “hunting,” complete with message boards and photos of people’s finds. Morels are delicious sautéed or roasted, and boast a nutty, meaty flavor and a rich and creamy texture.

Mustard Greens. High in antioxidants and vitamins K and A, these dark leafy greens are as nutritious as they are flavorful. The raw leaves can be added to salads or steamed or boiled until tender.

New Potatoes. Although they can be mashed, these springtime babies are best roasted or boiled and topped with a pat of butter and some kosher salt to accentuate their fresh flavor.

Rhubarb. Most famous for its part in rhubarb pie, this perennial vegetable can be cooked and pureed to make a sweet sauce, or even used to make oatmeal-rhubarb bars. Just make sure you don’t eat the leaves, which are toxic.

Spinach. Mix with baby lettuce for an exceptional salad, or sauté with garlic to make a delicious side dish.
 
Spring Fruits
Fruit is always easy. It is ready to eat, and tastes great. But if you're looking for some new ways to incorporate fruit into your menu besides the "grab and bite" technique, try fruit smoothies, fruit cobblers and fruit-topped pancakes and French toast.
  • Apricots. These delectable and delicate fruits are delicious fresh, cooked into a sauce, or grilled. Get them while you can, because they don’t last long!
  • Strawberries. Strawberry shortcake, strawberry smoothies, strawberries al a mode…the possibilities are endless.
  • Avocado. Avocadoes are an excellent source of healthy unsaturated fats, but many people don’t know what to do with them outside of whipping up some guacamole. Try them sliced on a sandwich, or cubed into salads. Just remember that they don’t keep well, so try to use them immediately.
Spring Seasonings
If you've done a little cooking, you probably know that the seasonings can make the meal. Here are some seasonal seasonings for your spring suppers.
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Watercress
If your pantry isn't stocked with the season's tastiest and most nutritious staples, then get yourself to your local farmer's market and add flavor to your meals with the best spring seasonings. To find a farmer's market near you, visit www.localharvest.org, and enjoy the bounty of spring!

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Member Comments

  • MICASHEALTH
    My garden has fresh chives, parsley and mint. A good start!
  • MICASHEALTH
    My garden has fresh chives, parsley and mint. A good start!
  • Thanks for the info
  • My grandmother used to say they looked forward to dandelion greens after a winter of root vegetables. I don't see dandelion greens on the list.
  • Lots of tasty choices!
  • Wondering why this article mentions a website about morel hunting, but no link?
    Also, why no link to the morel mushroom message board link? But, when I clicked on the message board, it directed me to Amazon.com and a diaper advertising... very deceptive tactic for sure!!!!
  • Avocados are awesome sliced up on toasted bread with peanut butter!! (or untoasted bread, if that's your preference!). It was a happy accident that led me to try the two together, but a peanut butter & avocado sandwich is very tasty, filling, soothing!!
  • MIKEP516
    Just eat the fennel raw, it's really good.
  • I have to be careful with the foods that are high in potassium, since my husband is on a low potassium diet.
    Love fresh asparagus, and wish I could get some of the white asparagus. We ate that when we were stationed in Germany and fell in love with it.
  • Just had a whole bunch of asparagus at supper.
  • Don't forget about peas! Especially sugar snap peas. Best eaten seconds after picking. Asparagus is great nibbled on the way from garden to kitchen, too.
  • I have fresh asparagus roasting for lunch later today with tender roast beef.
    I sprinkle olive oil, salt/pepper and roast for 10 min. at 400*. delish!!
  • mix your favorite herbs or spices in some olive oil. trim of the top and trim the tips of the leaves. cut the artichoke in half from stem to top. use a spoon to scrape out the choke. boil for 10 minutes, remove from waterr and brush with your seasoned olive oil and grill (outside or on a foreman (or other brand) for approximately 10-15 minutes on a medium heat. if you're cooking several, and why wouldn't you, you want to keep the artichokes from browning while you're preparing them....set your cut artichokes in a large bowl (or pot if its a lot) of water with a squeezed lemon (or use the concentrate).
  • Our own garden is our Farmers Market

About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.