The sun starts to peak through intermittent rains; buds begin bursting forth with flowers; the songbird's tune grows louder as light breaks earlier in the morning. Hey. It's springtime. Hearty greens break the soil first, with ambrosial strawberries and juicy honeydew following suit. Not only does the earth seem to wake up, but it is also time to dive full force into seasonal savings. It's time to cash in.
As a rule, shopping for produce seasonally and locally is always cheaper than buying out of season and leads to higher quality purchases. You can always save by buying in season at your grocery store, but why not give the farmer's market a go? Aside from cost efficiency, local purchases reduce waste and pollution, support privately-owned farms and make a great options for consumers concerned about GMOs.
We've cultivated the ultimate guide to spring produce ready for your next visit to the farmer's market, local co-op or grocery store. Use this guide to know what to buy-and what to make-with spring's favorite produce.
As soon as the cold recedes, the earth seems to sense we're ready to give comfort food a rest and start consuming fresh, nutrient-rich greens again. Are you ready for this list? Swiss chard, collard greens, watercress, radicchio, mustard greens, butter lettuce, spinach and arugula all come back into season during the spring. Here are a few of our favorite recipes featuring spring greens:
The savings abound on colorful vegetables in the spring. Purchasing broccoli, carrots, onions, fava beans and green beans becomes refreshingly economical. When buying broccoli, each head should have tight, green florets with a firm stalk and should feel heavy for its size. Fresh carrots ought to be firm, plump and without rootlets. Onions should feel heavy for their size and firm, with dry, papery skins. If you can smell the onion, put it back-a smell usually indicates an internal bruise in the onion. Fava beans should have bright green pods without any yellow. If buying shelled beans, look for tender beans with a smooth surface. The best fresh green beans will have slender, green pods without bruises.
We didn't think it was fair to resign all of the spring vegetables to one slide. In addition to the previously mentioned veggies, artichokes, asparagus, peas and potatoes all come into season in spring. When buying artichokes, look for dense ones that feel heavy; the leaves should be tight, and the stem should be thick and healthy. Choosing asparagus has similar guidelines-look for firm, colorful stalks with tightly closed, firm tips. The best peas are small, vibrantly green and tightly packed away in their pods. It's pretty hard to go wrong with potatoes, but opt for firm spuds with minimal divots that are appropriately sized for your recipe of choice.
While morels actually tend toward the pricey side of spring produce, they're a great way to go for a special occasion splurge. Morels are the first mushrooms to pop their honey-comb heads out of the earth each year. They have an earthy, meaty flavor and are great additions to countless savory dishes. A note of warning: never eat morels raw because they contain toxins that must be cooked out first. When picking morels out, look for damp, spongey flesh that feels soft but doesn't look like it's about to shrivel. Fresh morels smell "woodsy" (potentially even a bit funky).
Mark Boughton Photography / Styling by Teresa Blackburn
Oh rhubarb, the infamous traitor of all vegetables. While agreed upon as veggie, rhubarb has gained the spotlight for filling sweet springtime jams and pies. But when rhubarb isn't busy stuffing cobblers, tarts and bars, it can be found featured in salads, vinaigrettes and even soups. When picking out this versatile (and often mysterious) veggie, look for heavy, crisp stalks with taut, shiny skin. Avoid any rubbery, fibrous or dry stalks.
Bring on the real-deal sweets-seasonal fruits! Come springtime, we're excited to start welcoming apricots, strawberries, oranges and honeydew back into our diets. Pick firm and plump apricots with a deep orange/yellow color, but if making a sauce, go for much more ripe apricots-they'll be squishy and bruised. With strawberries, focus on color rather than size or shape. You want bright red all over the berry (the darker the red, the more ripe). Honeydews should have a dull looking exterior void of any defects. The best melons feel firm and heavy for their size and should smell sweet where the vine was once attached. Oranges should also feel heavy for their size and be both firm and fragrant.
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