Spring's earliest produce can bring both elation and puzzlement. After months of lumpy storage vegetables and produce shipped from afar, verdant greens and tender roots are a welcome shift. But spring's first offerings aren't for the faint of heart – from spicy radishes to punchy greens to pungent alliums, early spring produce can prove tough to tame.
I've found that the best way to savor these first shoots and roots is to celebrate the season's assertive and uniquely green palate. To help, I have a few guidelines I turn to again and again to make the most of the season's early bounty.
Spring Produce Guidelines
1. Embrace big flavors.
Spring is a season of intense flavors. Some of the earliest shoots, like chives, ramps, and green garlic, have a wild earthiness that can be challenging to work with. Instead of trying to tamp down pungent flavors, embrace them! Butter, dairy, and other fats carry the flavor of alliums beautifully and make for wonderful additions to dressings, sauces, and compound butters.
Spring is also an excellent time for fresh herbs – look out for fresh tarragon, mint, sage, rosemary, parsley, and dill early in the season.
2. Enjoy fleeting produce.
Fresh peas and asparagus only come around once every year, so seize the moment. In New York City, the Greenmarket system draws produce from Southern New Jersey to Vermont, so favorites like peas and asparagus can stretch out over many weeks. Outside of large cities, fresh peas can last just a few weeks, while asparagus tends to be available slightly longer. In this fleeting moment, I get my fill by incorporating sautéed asparagus and peas as sides at dinner, while also featuring them in a host of entrees and salads.
3. Keep cooking those roots.
Radishes are an affordable and hardy staple of early season farmers markets and CSAs. Once you've obtained a bunch, few things are as satisfying as biting into a crisp radish tipped with butter and salt. Likewise, thinly sliced radishes lend spice and depth to all kinds of salads. But don't fool yourself into thinking these spring beauties can only be enjoyed raw. In fact, radishes, baby beets, young carrots, and baby turnips (also known as salad or Harukei turnips) roast up beautifully.
5 Recipes That Highlight Early Spring Produce
Spring is a glorious time of year for eaters. Capture the moment with these five early spring produce recipes that feature ways to incorporate alliums and herbs in a range of dressings, sauces, and salads; suggestions for getting the most out of the season's most fleeting produce; and ideas for using tender roots in a host of dishes.