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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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.

Member Comments

  • Just had a whole bunch of asparagus at supper. - 4/10/2014 8:30:18 PM
  • 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. - 4/10/2014 2:00:14 AM
  • 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!! - 3/23/2014 2:46:39 PM
  • 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). - 3/23/2014 2:30:37 PM
  • Our own garden is our Farmers Market - 3/23/2014 12:54:39 PM
  • I shop @ farmers markets daily,when they are opened, not only do I get to buy local produce, & support local farmers, the $$$$ saved is amazing! - 3/23/2014 9:50:36 AM
  • Great info. I will be checking out the farmer market. - 8/11/2013 4:32:28 PM
  • Aloha hi there I live in a condo so no room for growing veggies but have farmers market close by today my daughter is going to stuff some peppers with some turkey meat . Sounds so good. Aloha janet - 5/3/2013 6:27:23 PM
  • i dont know about everyone else, but here in appalachia, we refer to morels or wild mushrooms, as dry land fish and they are just as tasty and are a delicacy as they only bloom in spring and they are harder to come by now that so many people know of them. - 5/3/2013 5:32:54 PM
  • Great information and I thanks so much for the link. Definitely considering joining a CSA, and did not realize there were so many in my area. - 5/3/2013 11:10:12 AM
  • Don't forget jerusalem artichokes! Tho they should really have been harvested earlier. Having picked some artichoke tops, my sister checked them out on the internet to make sure we wouldn't poison ourselves if I put them in the salad. It turns out that they are full of protein and other goodies. So I shall continue to pick them for salad. Albanians only eat them raw. I want to introduce them to them baked or roasted.
    We're enjoying some excellent strawberries from just over the border in Greece, baby spinach, swiss chard in the garden has just become big enough to be worth eating, carrots, courgettes etc from the market/greengroce
    r's stall. I love the summer ffruits and vegs in Albania, specially when my courgettes (zucchini) start producing in July. I've planted wild fennel, dug out of the ditch. No bulb, but juicy stems and tasty leaves. My ancient dill seeds have decided to come up, ditto ancient rocket. Instead of throwing old seeds into the dustbin, I've thrown them into the ground, which has produced some pleasant surprises. - 5/3/2013 9:28:32 AM
  • Nice article....but I sure don't know WHERE apricots are a "spring fruit"!! But then, I live in the Northwest..... maybe in the far south they bloom mid-winter...and set fruit by end of spring???

    Oh, and artichokes do NOT need to be boiled for an hour if you own a microwave and only want to cook one! I do mine for 10 min and let sit for 10 min. Pull open the leaves before you cook them, and fill with water. Place upright in a covered glass container or plastic bag, preferably with the heart up a few inches ---I use a quart pyrex measuring cup, and the big ones don't slide down.... Cook on high, let sit, turn over to drain and enjoy!! - 5/3/2013 1:01:45 AM
  • Pretty cool! I clicked the link (http://www.local
    harvest.org/) and right away I saw a link to Pleasant Valley Farm in Tionesta, PA. My friend Emily is the owner of the farm, but I never knew she had a blog about it. A great reminder to buy local fresh foods! - 7/3/2011 9:22:54 AM
  • One of the bestest things I did this year was get a CSA box delivered (Community Supported Agriculture) -- a local farm delivers a box of fresh fruits and veggies once a month; it's really encouraged me to try new things (Kale! Fennel! Bok Choy!) which has been a treat for my palate. Plus I feel good knowing I'm supporting local farmers. From the farmer's markets near us I get my bread and eggs as well as any additional produce I don't get in my CSA box. I really really try to just not use anything out of season any more. Better for the environment and more affordable too! - 3/23/2011 2:30:58 PM
  • I am working on my garden so I will have most of my fresh vegetables and herbs at my fingertips. Of course the Farmers Market is great for those things that you do not grow in your garden. Nothing beats fresh. - 3/23/2011 10:53:06 AM

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