eating seasonally in spring

eating with the seasons in spring

For me, spring fruits and vegetables do for my taste buds what daffodils, dandelions and johnny jump ups do for my soul. Spring is just so celebratory for me, especially after such a nasty winter as this one was. I laugh at the least provocation, my energy levels rise and I feel all bouncy, the world is full of such promise... and there are sugar snap peas.

The reasons for eating seasonally are several: seasonal vegetables are more likely to be locally produced rather than shipped for long distances, foods in season tend to be more abundant and thus great bargains can be had and finally, foods are just yummiest when freshest.

In very early spring, not much is growing yet, so I am still relying largely on winter fruits & vegetables: apples, cabbage, carrots, garlic, onions, parsnip, potatoes, pumpkin, rutabagas, squash and turnips. The stuff I stored in fall starts to look a bit thin, and often has bad spots that need cutting off. And I'm just tired of dehydrated and frozen foods. All I've had truly fresh for quite some time is my homegrown lettuce, sprouts and store-bought citrus.

At first, I'm eagerly awaiting the ability to get into the garden for some overwintered chard, kale, leek and radicchio. As spring moves on, asparagus, peas and spinach become available to me locally, the peas sugar-snapping right in my yard. While never local (I tried overwintering it 3 times with no luck here in central PA), artichokes, one of my most favorite vegetables becomes available.

Shortly thereafter, the cool-weather crops come in: bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, early cabbages, radishes, ramps, scallions, spinach and loads of other greens, like my beloved dandelion greens, but also tender baby lettuces of all sorts.

And then we get the spring bonanza, the first fruit of the year: strawberries! They never, ever taste nearly as good as when warmed through by the sun and placed directly into your mouth. Now THAT is as seasonal as it gets! If you don't grow them yourself, I highly recommend an outing to a pick-your-own place, cause strawberries just never taste as good as that.

In fact, that is true of many foods. My mints start growing enthusiastically in early spring, and a few mint leaves along with a stevia leaf is a near-daily gardening treat all spring and summer. When I need to thin crops like lettuces, greens, cabbages or onions, the thinnings go directly from the ground into my mouth. And honestly, I grow HUGE piles of peas, but only ever seem to make one or two dishes with them, the vast majority being eaten where they grow.

Because of my greedy behavior of just shoving the beautiful bounty directly into my belly, I have few spring recipes to share. "Nuke an artichoke with a tablespoon of water for 8 minutes, then nuke butter to dip it in," is not much of a recipe. Neither is "dip scallion in sour cream and insert in mouth. "

So I hooked up with some blogging friends (who apparently have much more restraint than I do) to bring you a roundup of real food spring recipes. I've vaguely categorized them, but many use multiple ingredients and could easily be in more than one category, so you want to read the whole list.

all the alliums

This is my all time favorite class of vegetables; I never met an allium I didn't love: chives, garlic, onions of all colors, ramps, scallions and shallots. Amusingly, I grew up thinking of them as seasoning rather than "real" vegetables, because nothing that tastes that good could possibly be good for you. Turns out they're loaded with quercetin and other flavanoids plus sulfur-containing nutrients.

  Potato Chowder with Morels and Ramps from Health Starts in the Kitchen includes two delectable foraged ingredients, with options if your foraging is not happenning. This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free and soy-free and includes a vegetarian version (but then you miss the BACON!)
  Wild Garlic and Cashew Pesto from Keeper of the Kitchen explains how to forage for wild garlic in spring when the flavor is mildest. Wild garlic is different than cultivated garlic in that the leaves and flowers are eaten, rather than the bulb, and this is a delicious way to eat it.
  Green Onion Soup from Richly Rooted is a similar idea to French onion soup, with an entirely different flavor profile - and is much easier to make.
  Wild Mushroom Pate from Health Starts in the Kitchen is a 'shroom, ramp, cream cheese and butter delicacy served either warm or cold.
  Onion Flower Fritters from Pantry Paratus is a brilliant use of wild onion blossoms, which fill my front yard every spring; just pick, batter, fry and enjoy!
  Salsa and Spinach Pie with Wild Onions from Richly Rooted is another foraging dish that I'm excited to try cause my lawn is full of wild onions!
  Ramp Rice from Health Starts in the Kitchen is a great way to use up leftover rice; in fact, you might purposely make sure you have enough leftover to make this spring delight.
  Springtime Green Garlic Potato Salad from Christina's Cucina is a simple, rustic salad and includes instructions on how to make garlic greens from the stuff sprouting in your pantry.
  Spring Ramp Spread from Health Starts in the Kitchen is a butter/cream cheese based dip; if you don't have ramps or baby leeks, I think scallions would work in this recipe too.


Will you guys forgive me if I confess I don't much like asparagus? One of the great reasons for a roundup is I can share awesome recipes with asparagus-lovers even though I'll never develop them myself. Even though my own enthusiasm is limited, I just don't see how you can talk spring food without asparagus.

  Blended Green Soup (for the kids!) from Kitchen Stewardship makes asparagus soup fun for kids by floating a face on top, made from butter pats, grated Parmesan and dried dill. If my mom had tried this, maybe I'd have developed a taste for the stuff.
  Asparagus, Avocado, and Caramelized Onion Quinoa from A Harmony Healing "is a delectable combination of smoky grilled asparagus, sweet caramelized onions, creamy avocado, peppery watercress, juicy tomatoes, spicy radishes, refreshing lime, and nutty quinoa."
  Asparagus Salad from Gluten Free Fabulous features raw asparagus with red onion, red bell pepper and feta cheese in an oil & vinegar dressing for a fresh and bright dish.
  Linguini in Bianco with Asparagus, Mushrooms and Asiago Cream from The Spiced Life includes garlic, red onions, asiago, parmesan, prosciutto, heavy cream and mushrooms in the sauce. Frankly, the title of the recipe is nearly orgasmic and I think I could make this and just skip the asparagus and be utterly in love.
  2 Spring Energy Salads from A Harmony Healing includes an asparagus, baby spinach, cherry tomato and red onion salad with a meyer lemon vinaigrette.
  Asparagus and Balsamic Tomatoes from Gluten Free Fabulous is an elegant dish whose flair belies it's simple preparation.
  April is for Asparagus from Richly Rooted includes a simple recipe - just olive oil, garlic powder and sea salt - allowing the glory of the vegetable to shine.
  Spring Pasta Sauté from Health Starts in the Kitchen includes mushrooms or morels, scallions or ramps and peas as well as the asparagus for a truly spring-flavored meal.

cole crops

And now we are back to a category of vegetables I can wax rhapsodic over. Brussels sprouts, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are all cool weather crops, planted in early spring (or late summer) and harvested in late spring (or fall). Collards, kale and mustard are also cole crops, but I cover them separately under greens below. My personal favorite is pairing broccoli with cheese, my two recipes being nearly identical: "Make cheese sauce and pour over cooked broccoli" or "Make cheese sauce and add cooked broccoli, then blend with an immersion blender."

  A bright cauliflower salad for winter and spring from Fresh Bites Daily mixes seasoned roasted cauliflower with radishes and scallions for a spring-alicious warm salad.
  Peanut Butter and Jelly Bok Choy Salad from Hybrid Rasta Mama is GAPS legal, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free and could be paleo if you swapped for a nut butter. Jennifer says, "I know, I know! It sounds odd, but trust me! This is one delicious salad!"
  Broccoli Cheddar Quiche from Clean Eats, Fast Feets includes an olive oil crust that needs no rolling pin, sautéed onion, garlic and broccoli, and shredded cheddar in this gorgeous spring quiche.
  Basil and Broccoli Pesto Potato Salad from Happy Healthnut uses a basil, broccoli, walnut, lemon and olive oil pesto to replace the mayo, turning the traditionally summer dish into a spring favorite.


It surprised me how many folks consider kale a spring vegetable. I mean, technically, kale is in season year-round, it can even be harvested from under snow. But I always start mine late summer so it gets harvested after a frost, making it much yummier, so I think of it as a fall crop. In spring, my favorite green is Swiss chard, probably only partly for the taste - I just find it so pretty in the garden.

  Basic Kale Pizza Dough (Pizza Night!) from Farm Fresh Feasts is a recipe based on the principle: when life (or your CSA) gives you kale, make pizza dough. Recipes for using said kale crust include the Four Cheese Pizza and Spicy Buffalo Sausage Pizza.
  Carrot Salad with Kale and Harissa from Fresh Bites Daily includes harissa, a Tunisian hot Chili pepper paste made from roasted red peppers, serrano peppers and other hot chili peppers, seasoned with garlic paste, coriander seed, and/or caraway. This salad is not boring!
  Kale Omelette from Economies of Kale is a easy, fast recipe for breakfast or dinner.
  Kheema With Springtime Greens from The Spiced Life is a curry I'm unfamiliar with: spinach, mustard greens, scallions and cilantro start the recipe off, then you toast the spices, add ground beef and yogurt to make an amazing dish served over rice with a chutney.
  Spring In A Cup from Raia's Recipes is a green smoothie made luscious with pineapple, bananas and coconut milk.
  Kale Chips from Simple Foody is the easiest way ever to make kale scrumptious.
  Sauté Beet Greens and Spring Onions with Sherry Vinegar from Farm Fresh Feasts is either a simple side dish or add a fried egg for a satisfying lunch.
  Kale & Parmesan Salad from Keeper of the Kitchen is a simple vegetarian dish made with baby kale leaves, olive oil, lemon juice and parmesan.
  Twice-Baked Potatoes with Kale from Economies of Kale includes another spring favorite, broccoli, and winds up topped with bacon and cheese before baking. Yum!
  Arugula Pesto Focaccia with Artichokes, Feta, Goat Cheese and Green Olives (Pizza Night!) from Farm Fresh Feasts mixes the pesto right into the dough, which bakes in a cast-iron skillet. Honestly, the bread sounds so yummy, I'm not sure why you need toppings to convert to a pizza - except who could pass up artichokes?
  Kheema (Indian Ground Mushroom-Beef Curry) with Kale and Peas: Ode to the Mushroom from The Spiced Life is a near-vegetarian makeover of Kheema, replacing half the ground meat with ground mushrooms, or you could adjust it to go all the way if you want a vegetarian version. Kale, cilantro and peas add to the seasonal theme in this recipe.
  Potato and Kale Skillet from Simple Foody is a yummy kale, corn, onion and potato side dish.

mixed bag - from peas to strawberries & other spring things

I start peas as early as February some years, so as to have them as soon as possible; I unmulch the strawberries as soon as the snow is gone for the same reason. To me, spring is defined not so much by the calendar as by the garden - sugar snap peas are pretty much my favorite food in early spring with strawberries being the favorite at the end of spring.

  Dandelion Fritters from Keeper of the Kitchen is a perfect spring dish because nothing says spring like dandelions. I can't conceive of the small child who wouldn't want to help make these battered flowers.
  Radish & Pea Salad with Goat Cheese from Divine Health From The Inside Out is a veritable pea festival, with snap/snow peas, shelled English peas, pea pods plus radishes in a divine vinaigrette.
  Tropical Salmon ~ A Family Favorite! from The Organic Kitchen is topped with Mucho Mango Salsa. While not local to me, mangoes come into season in April/May and this salsification of them sounds incredible.
  Try New Things-Radish Sandwich (Quick Take) from Farm Fresh Feasts has the simplest idea for chowing down on radishes.
  Balsamic Strawberries, A Simple Spring Dessert from Liz the Chef is an easy, but elegant, dessert.
  Green Peas and Potatoes with Lemon Mint Sauce from Miz Helen's Country Cottage pairs roasted new potatoes and steamed peas in a delightful olive oil, lemon juice, butter and mint sauce.
  The Summer Berry Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette! from The Organic Kitchen is a luscious use of strawberries.
  5 Ways to Use Radishes from Poor and Gluten Free discusses winter radishes, but the suggestions from mashing to fermenting are chockful of handy ideas that work well with the spring guys also.
  Grilled Rosemary Pork Chops from Whole Food Mom on a Budget works as soon as the mud dries up enough to let you get to grillin'.