Spring has been slowly creeping into the west coast and we are welcoming the warmer weather with open arms. In addition to sunnier, longer days we are looking forward to all the fresh seasonal produce that makes spring such an exciting time to be in the kitchen. The key to creating delicious seasonal dishes is to be aware of what produce is best during this time of year.
To make it simple for you, we are breaking down our favorite seasonal spring produce that is going to be popping up at all your local farmer’s markets in the coming months. Be sure to grab them when they last for the most delicious flavors and colorful meals.
Strawberries: March – May
Strawberries seem to be made for springtime. Think picnics in the park, strawberry mimosas, and the classic strawberry shortcake. The vibrancy and scent are enough to invoke the idea of spring but swipe them up quickly because they are at their best for only three months of the year. Because fresh strawberries tend to go bad quickly be sure to check the bottom of the basket when choosing for signs or age or decay.
Avocados: February – July
The west coast is known for many things, but our obsession with avocados is a new stereotype that we have earned in the past few years. But is it a stereotype if it’s true? Really, who doesn’t love a perfectly ripe avocado. Mashed on toast, on top of a salad, or inside a spring roll. You can make the argument that avocado is the best part of any meal it is included in. Luckily for us, the prime time to get the perfect avocado lasts a bit longer on this side of the coast. Transitioning us into spring and straight through summer.
Asparagus: March- April
Think of asparagus as the weather channel of the vegetable world. Farmers have known for ages that when the heads of the asparagus start to poke through the dirt, it is a telltale sign that the warmer days of spring have arrived. Because of their tendency to favor a very specific time of year be sure to snap them up quickly when they hit the stands starting in mid-March. A good indicator when picking out your asparagus is to take a look at the stem, it should be firm and smooth with little to no wrinkles.
Carrots: February – June
Carrots can often be overlooked as commonplace, but when you get some that are perfectly in season, there is nothing more delicious. Being one of the sweetest of the root vegetables, it compliments spring and summer flavors nicely and can add both ornamentation and substance to a dish. Nowadays carrots come in all sorts of shapes, colors, and sizes, so experiment with them this spring and challenge yourself to use them in new and interesting ways.
English Peas: March – April
There is something so satisfying about finding the perfect English peas. Maybe it is because they are typically only in season for a few months of the year, or maybe it is because due to their chemical makeup they lose much of their flavor once separated from the vine. These factors make finding a perfectly sweet bunch of peas a triumph in and of itself. Keep on the lookout for them as we transition into spring, and if at all possible sample one before buying.
Grapefruit: March – July
Grapefruits are the perfect spring/summer citrus to add to your menu. They have a tendency to enjoy the heat and require a bit of it to lose their acidity and sweeten up. Complementing a variety of dishes and mixed drinks, they have a very complex flavor profile that can elevate any meal. The best way to indicate if a grapefruit is ready to be used is to feel its weight, it should be heavy and full of juice. Another test is to rub the peel with your fingernail, if ripe it should release a fruitful aroma.
Specialty Lettuce: February – May
As the warmer weather moves in, there tends to be a shift towards lighter meals. Conveniently enough springtime brings us the best selection in specialty lettuces, so we can indulge in a flavorful, colorful salad. Experiment with different textures and be unafraid to try new combinations. The only rule you want to keep in mind when picking out your leafy greens is to keep it crisp. There is no reason to settle for wilted lettuce this time of year.
Sugar Snap Peas: February – June
Sugar snap peas have a similar flavor profile as english peas, but don’t require shucking the peapod. So, if you are looking for ease, these might be the peas for you. In addition to being convenient they are also extremely delicious and a healthy crunchy snack on a warm spring day. When picking out your sugar snap peas, be on the lookout for crisp pods with no obvious blemishes or soft spots.
Grape and Cherry Tomatoes: April – July
It’s no secret that tomatoes are best mid-to-late summer, but while the large tomatoes take time to ripen you can get your fix with their smaller counterparts, grape and cherry tomatoes. These mini morsels are at their best mid-spring to early-summer and can be used in countless ways. Add them to pasta, plop them atop a salad, or eat them raw. They are equally delicious, healthy, and vibrantly colored, making for the perfect addition to any meal.
Green Garlic: March-May
When you see green garlic at the market, it is a good indication that spring has arrived. This unusual vegetable comes from garlic plant thinnings and in the past was not considered a desirable plant. In recent years, however, it has gained popularity, to the point that farmers are purposely producing it now. In essence, green garlic is simply immature garlic, with the same perfume of the adult version but a milder taste. Coming in a range of sizes be sure to select some that are firm with no soft spots.
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