The arrival of spring and warmer weather brings new life. Sprouts and tiny leaves in vibrant shades of green begin to emerge everywhere. Our taste buds seem to awaken, craving fresh foods that help our bodies to lighten up, cleanse and renew.
According to Natural News, “Seasonal foods also have much higher antioxidant content than non-seasonal foods. In traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) spring is associated with the liver — one of the body’s primary detoxification organs. Synergistically, spring is also the time when dandelion and other bitter greens are fresh and available; these bitter greens support the liver and its function of cleansing the blood.”
A walk in the woods or a trip to your green grocer or local market reveals a whole new world of seasonal vegetables and fruits. Here are some great spring finds.
Chives are a member of the allium family and considered an herb. Chives are thin, long and hollow inside, dark green in color and pungent in flavor. For a few weeks, later in spring, the tips of chives blossom with a purple flower which is spicy, beautiful and edible.
Nutritionally speaking, a serving of two tablespoons of chopped chives provides 16 percent of what’s needed in vitamin K, which is an important vitamin for bone health, blood clotting and more.
Try them: Mix a generous handful of chopped chives into salmon or tuna salad, stir into a mashed cauliflower or potato dish or add to your morning egg scramble.
Snap peas and snow peas are both crunchy and sweet and can be eaten whole. Snow peas, with a flatter pod, also produce delicate, tender and edible pea tips.
Besides being high in fiber, snap peas are a great source of vitamin C and provide 60 mg per 100-gram serving.
Try them: Pick up a bag of snow pea tips, often found next to the sprouts in your local market and add to salads, use as a garnish or eat them right out of the bag for a low-calorie snack. Snap peas and snow peas are best eaten raw or very lightly cooked. Serve thinly sliced peas and radishes with a sprinkle of natural salt or seasoned salt, lemon juice, olive oil and fresh mint. Toss into a quick weeknight stir fry, dip into hummus or slice thinly and add to Asian noodle soup.
Whatever your preference, pencil thin or fatter stalks, asparagus are a springtime tonic. Eating asparagus has diuretic effects that helps the body to flush out toxins. It’s also low in calories and high in fiber. Look for firm stalks, bright green with tight tips. Trim off woody and fibrous bottoms on thicker stalks.
Try it: Serve asparagus raw, shaved with a peeler or thinly sliced and tossed with lemon, fresh parsley and grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Toss thicker asparagus stalks with a splash of avocado oil and balsamic vinegar and roast in 400 degree oven for 10 minutes, or place directly on your outdoor grill until they are crispy and caramelized.
Tart-flavored rhubarb, eaten like a fruit in sauces and desserts, is actually a vegetable. The stalks, which look like celery, are the edible part of this beauty, and they range in color from light pink to bright red.
Cook chopped stalks with other fruits and add your favorite sweetener to balance out the sour flavor. Word of caution: do not eat the leaves of the rhubarb plant as they can be toxic due to the high levels of oxalic acid.
Buy firm stalks, and trim and peel them if they are very fibrous. If you have an abundance of rhubarb, chop it up and freeze it.
Try it: Combine rhubarb with strawberries or raspberries to make compote or sauce, or rhubarb chutney, and serve it warm over ice cream or sweet biscuits. Add a layer of rhubarb and maple sugar to an upside down cake and top with vanilla whipped cream. Don’t forget about strawberry rhubarb pie, always a crowd pleaser.
There is nothing like the fresh taste and flavors of springtime salad greens. Look for locally harvested dandelion leaves, mild in flavor early in the spring. Add the leaves to other salad mixtures or sauté with garlic and olive oil and toss with pasta. Arugula, spinach and baby lettuce are mild and tender in early spring.
Try them: Toss these delicate greens into a fresh spring greens salad with a light dressing of flavorful extra virgin olive oil and a splash of rice vinegar, red wine vinegar or fruity raspberry vinegar. Looking for something a little spicier? Pick up a bag or two of Asian greens and sauté with freshly grated ginger and toasted sesame oil.
Spring radishes can go from seed to harvest within four weeks. If you’ve never been a radish lover, spring radishes are worth a try. These radish varieties are sweeter and milder in flavor than the sharper fall-winter radish varieties.
According to Med Health, “Because radishes are incredibly filling, they are a great way to satisfy hunger and keep a low caloric intake. In addition due to their high quantities of roughage, water and low quantities of digestible carbs, they are a great dietary option. Because radishes have a good amount of fiber but a low glycemic index, they can increase the regularity of bowel movements, helping with the metabolism and weight loss.”
Try them: Radishes are the perfect portable snack food, sprinkle with a little salt or eaten as is, they are crunchy and satisfying. Shred up radishes and toss with your favorite slaw ingredients, season with lime juice, cilantro and avocado oil. You can also season and bake thin slices to make radish chips.
There are so many healthy ways to lighten up your menus with spring produce. Some favorite choices are only available for a brief time, so shed those heavy winter foods and dig in to a delicious new bounty before they disappear.