Gotta catch them all!
It will soon be time time to dash to your local farmers’ market to catch the season’s best vegetables—especially those with short growing seasons and limited availability. And because you always want what you can’t have the most, many of these limited season gems are highly anticipated by cooks each year. In fact, some vegetables go so quickly that you may be completely unfamiliar with them and have never even noticed that they were missing from the spring vegetable inventory. However, the beginning of the spring season is the most exciting time to chat with your local farmers to get an ideas of the upcoming produce and gather suggestions on the best ways to use each vegetable. If you’re looking for a new ingredient to experiment with in the kitchen, try to scope out the these produce picks on your next market run. (P.S. You’re gonna wanna get there early.)
(Typically Available: late April to May)
Fiddlehead ferns look like something straight out of a Disney movie; a plant one eats to gain magic powers or something. While they may not be “magical,” they are pretty dang delicious. These tightly curled, edible ferns are commonly harvested from the tips of ostrich ferns and have a strong earthy flavor with a texture similar to asparagus. The best way to prepare fiddleheads is to rinse them well (removing excess dirt), boil them for about ten minutes, and then, sauté the drained ferns in oil or butter. Do note, raw or undercooked fiddlehead ferns can result in an upset stomach or nausea, so be sure to fully cook them before eating.
(Typically Available: late April to early June)
You may have very well seen trendy chefs and bloggers fawn over the return of the ramp in years past—ramps are definitely a darling of the season. They are easily mistaken for a scallion by appearance, but ramps are in a league of their own. Ramps have long wide and flat green leaves that sprout from a small white bulb at the end. They deliver a strong garlicky onion flavor that's unlike any other. With their elegant appearance and bold flavor, ramps add an element of “something special” to many a spring dish. That said, if you want to give them a try, you have to act fast as their harvesting season is a mere 2 to 6 weeks. If you stumble upon them at the farmers’ market, grab a bunch to see if you find them worth the hype. Thinly slice them to top a fried egg or salad or add them to the pan to flavor a roasted chicken.
(Typically Available: Late February to June)
Green garlic also resembles a scallion in appearance, but its flavor is far from oniony—it’s more along the line of a mild garlic flavor. Green garlic (A.K.A. young garlic) is the unmatured garlic plant before the bulbs mature. The leaves are flat and carry a sweet garlicky aroma, and the bulb has a pink-purple-ish. You can treat green garlic in the same way you would ramps, and use it in virtually any dish that calls for garlic.
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(Typically Available: April to June)
Though rhubarb has become more commonly available in the frozen food section at the grocery store, you absolutely can’t beat the fresh stuff. Rhubarb is a stalky plant that looks almost like a magenta-colored version of celery. It can be eaten raw (beware, it’s really sour), but many cooks and bakers balance its natural tang with sugar, using it in baked goods like pies and cakes. Many pie and galette recipes often pair rhubarb with strawberries, but it can also team up with other fruits such as raspberries, peaches, and apples. Just remember that when you prepare the vegetable, you need to cut off any remaining leaves because they are poisonous if consumed.
(Typically Available: May to August)
The bright yellow-orange flowers are pretty to look at, but even more delightful the eat. Squash blossoms are the flower from summer squash (and winter too) that have a very short life once picked. The flowers of zucchini are the most common variety found at most farmers’ markets. The tender flowers actually taste a like a squash with a subtle floral flavor. Squash blossoms can be stuffed, battered, and fried or the leaves can be torn apart and eaten raw in a salad.
(Typically Available: March to May)
Though mushrooms are technically a fungus, the onset of morel mushroom season gets us tremendously excited; we figured you wouldn’t mind them being included in the “vegetable” round-up. Morel mushrooms start to appear when the ground reaches warmer temperatures around 50° to 60°F. Morels are pricey by the time they reach the farmers’ market because they typically have to be foraged in the wild by hand. The hallow and spongy-shaped mushrooms are light by volume, therefore, you should get a decent amount of shrooms by the pound. Outside of the growing season, you can find dried morels in the grocery store—but again, fresh is ideal. Try morels in this Chicken Fricassee with Cream and Morel Mushrooms recipe or sautéed in this easy Morel Mushroom and Asparagus Sauté.
Bonus: Edible Flowers
(Typically Available: Spring to Summer)
Edible flowers add a special touch when included on a plate filled with other glorious springtime vegetables. Nasturtiums, Johnny jump-ups, violas, pansies, and bachelor buttons are all flower varieties that you can commonly find at the market to garnish with/eat, or to simply place in a vase for decoration. If you’re not sure, always talk to the farmer before assuming that a flower is safe to eat.