For this update on eating seasonally, we will cover not only what’s in season but also how to clean them up, what nutrition benefits the early spring produce provides, and a couple suggestions for how to use them.
Here’s a quick reminder of why you may want to try eating seasonal produce. Seasonal produce is often cheaper, can be more nutritious, and most importantly, is usually tastier than produce grown elsewhere and then shipped across the country.
Early spring produce features bok choy, spinach, lettuces, radishes, asparagus, and rhubarb. They are grouped by how best to wash them below.
Leafy Greens – Bok Choy, Spinach, and Lettuces
Leafy vegetables grow down near the soil which means they get covered in dirt and gritty soil. To clean greens, plunge them into cold water, giving them a shake to loosen any stuck-on sand. Repeat, changing the water as needed. Dry in a salad spinner or shake the leaves dry in layers of towels.
Bok Choy is packed with vitamins and minerals including vitamins K and C, plus folate and calcium. Boy Choy is a leafy cabbage popular in Asian cuisine.Try adding it to a stir fry like this Pineapple Pork one.
Spinach is a nutrition powerhouse filled with vitamins A, C, fiber and potassium. Enjoy in a fresh salad, make a batch of pesto, or try this yummy dip.
Choose types of lettuce that are deep shades of green (or mix it up and try purple!). For lettuce, generally the deeper the color, the more nutrients the lettuce has. Try sneaking lettuce into sandwiches for a little extra crunch and color or check out this recipe for a Chicken Club Salad.
Root Vegetables – Radishes
Root vegetables grow underground so it’s common for them to still be dusty and dirty when you buy them. Even if you peel your root vegetables, you should still remove the dirt from their skins first by scrubbing with a stiff-bristled brush and plenty of water.
Vibrant radishes are a great way to add a nice crunch to salads and meals, plus they’re a good source of vitamin C. You can try them dipped into the spinach dip mentioned above or try them roasted or sautéed.
Stalk Vegetables – Asparagus and Rhubarb
Vegetables with a smooth exterior have fewer places for dirt to hide. But this doesn’t mean you can skip washing them! All produce should at least be washed under running water.
Asparagus spears are full of fiber, iron and potassium. Avoid overcooking asparagus.Try grilling, roasting in the oven, or sautéing with olive oil. You can also try them in this easy Asian inspired dish.
Rhubarb stalks are antioxidant rich. They are tart and tangy so usually rhubarb is cooked with sugar or berries. Try in a batch of jam or baked goods. Rhubarb leaves should not be eaten.
For more recipes and uses for spring produce see last year’s version of What’s in Season: Spring.
Written by Rachel Caty, MPH, RDN, LDN#seasonalproduce