'Tis the Season

Your Guide to Spring Vegetables, and How to Cook Them


April 15, 2016 Home : Eats By Photo by Chase Pellerin
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Ethics aside, the argument for eating local and seasonal food really boils down to taste. A tomato grown in Florida, shipped to New York City, then ripened with ethyl gas doesn’t just sound gross — it is. With that in mind, chefs wait all winter for spring to pop its head above ground. It’s the season when produce becomes varied, colorful, abundant. But you don’t need to be a pro to take advantage of the spring’s ripe offerings. Here are the vegetables you’ll spot on your next visit to the farmers market, along with some pointers on how to best prepare them.

Artichokes

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There are many varieties of artichokes, but when most people refer to the vegetable, they mean the classic globe artichoke. It’s one of the oldest-known delicacies in the world, a favorite among ancient Greeks and Romans. Don’t be intimidated by the thorny leaves. Simply trim the top, and steam in lemon water until soft (25 to 45 minutes). The taste is reminiscent of asparagus, with hints of tangy citrus.

Peak Season: March through April
Recipe to Try: “Braised Squid With Artichokes” (The New York Times)

Asparagus

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Asparagus has a reputation for smelly after-effects — a result of a compound called mercaptan — but they’re worth their weight. Not only is asparagus incredibly delicious, the flesh mild and earthy, it’s one of the healthiest vegetables you can put in your body, rich in vitamin K, fiber and B vitamins. Try them steamed, roasted or grilled with a healthy coat of olive oil and a pinch of coarse sea salt.

Peak Season: March through April
Recipe to Try: “Asparagus and Dill Rice Noodle Salad” (My Darling Lemon Thyme)

Radishes

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Radishes are another vegetable with many offshoot varieties, including French breakfast, daikon and the common cherry belle. Its often-spicy, pepper-like flavor can be off-putting to picky eaters, but they’re crisp, refreshing and highly nutritious, high in folate, riboflavin and potassium. Though commonly consumed raw, either tossed into a salad or dipped directly into dressing, they’re just as tasty when roasted with herb butter.

Peak Season: April through May
Recipe to Try: “Buttermilk Farro Salad with Radishes” (101 Cookbooks)
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Ramps

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Ramps are the darling of any spring vegetable lineup — overhyped but no less delicious. A type of allium, ramps look like thin scallions with with delicate foliage and a mild garlic flavor. They’re fine sautéed and simply eaten as an appetizer; but for something different, coat them in a batter and deep fry like onion rings.

Peak Season: April through June
Recipe to Try: “Hugh Acheson’s Ramp Jam” (Saveur)

Spring Onions

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Often confused confused for scallions, spring onions are distinguished by their small onion bulbs at the base. These bulbs are sweeter than normal yellow onions — delicious when sliced, then tossed into a salad — but the greens are more intense than a scallion, and give foods they’re paired with a brighter punch. Like all onions, the sugars caramelize when cooked, making them mildly sweet instead of astringent.

Peak Season: March through June
Recipe to Try: “Roasted Spring Onions” (Bon Appétit)

Sugar Snap Peas

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Sugar snap peas, or just snap peas, originate from the countries around the Mediterranean, but were widely cultivated in Europe and China in the 1800s, nestling their way into a myriad of cuisines around the globe. The pod is round, instead of flat as with snow peas. If eaten raw, many cooks will recommended that mature snap peas are “stringed” of their membranous fiber that runs along the outside of the pod, which can be hard to digest. Or just forget the prep work and throw them in a late-night stir fry.

Peak Season: April through May
Recipe to Try: “Quinoa Salad with Sugar Snap Peas” (Food & Wine)
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