As we are getting all up into the early weeks of spring, it's only right that we're thinking about the plethora of fresh produce that is soon to be reaching peak season. But before we get to the shopping and eating, we outlined when certain spring vegetables are actually ready to be their best, ripest selves. This way, you won't be cleaning out the shelves of your produce aisles and taking home food that isn't quite there yet. Our best advice? Head to your farmers' market to be sure you're getting the freshest local produce available.

February 28, 2017

For most people, there comes a time towards the end of February/beginning of March when you are simply out of foods to cook. You can’t bear the thought of another slow cooker stew, you’ve had it up to your eyeballs with winter root veggies and gourds, and you just need some fresh, crunchy greens in your life. In this anxious arrival of warmer weather plus bountiful produce aisles, it’s easy to get ahead of yourself. Yes, March 20 is officially the beginning of spring, but that doesn’t mean that all spring veggies are suddenly storming the aisles of your local market.

Watch: How to Make Creamy Spring Pasta

 

I know it can also be a little overwhelming even thinking about all the produce that you’ve deprived yourself of in the colder seasons and all the things you could make with it this year, but just take it month by month. All it takes is a little patience (and understanding that produce seasonality varies by location and uncontrollable factors affecting that particular growing season) to know just when those vibrant spring vegetables that you’ve been waiting for are finally ready for you. And if you take them as they come, you'll be able to enjoy them more too.

March

Despite the wait for certain veggies, there are some that are in peak season come the beginning of spring, if not even a little sooner. Garlic, which is typically planted in the fall, is ready for harvesting in the beginning of March. Even though it can be harvested during the fall or spring, broccoli (and for that matter, broccolini) is also another great option for the beginning of spring. Another spring produce staple that is ready for consumption straight out of the gate is arugula (keep in mind that the earlier it’s harvested, the milder and less peppery the flavor will be).

April

Once April comes around, it’s finally time for you to go for the crispest and prettiest of them all, radishes. Sure, there are larger, storage varieties available year-round, but the tinier, more delicate radishes are a solely springtime treat. And you’d be a fool not to take advantage. Another produce item that hits its peak season come the mid-spring months is asparagus. We’re talking delicate, bright green, free of shrivels or wilting, and ultra crispy, spears. Lastly, another veggie who’s time to shine begins in April is rhubarb, everybody’s favorite pinkish, tart stalks that are just begging to be made into a cobbler.

It’s worth seeking out ramps; folklore says they have medicinal properties to combat premature aging. Even more promising is their flavor; they are deliciously pungent with a garlicky bite. Ramps appear briefly—for only about six weeks—in farmers' markets before vanishing for another year. Edible from the bulb-like root to the lily-like leaves, they are simple to prepare. Just wash well and pair with other peak ingredients like grassy asparagus, nutty morel mushrooms, and tiny new potatoes for a feast of the season.

Recipe: Warm Potato Salad with Ramps and Bacon

John Autry

May

Once you’ve already got a fair share of spring vegetables, this season just keeps on giving gift after gift. Once you’ve reached May, that’s typically your go-ahead to start buying ramps, tiny wild onions that have a very short window—so don’t wait on these. If you see them, buy them. Another gem that's just bursting at the seams come May: green peas. Head to your local farmer's market and fill a basket with the most vibrant, voluminous ones you can find, and then toss them into your next pasta dish. No questions asked.

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