Spring Vegetables

With the days staying brighter longer, signs of growth are popping up in local gardens around every corner. Because some areas are still affected by frost while others are already basking in warmer weather, different vegetables hit their ripeness at different times throughout the United States. Here is a list of a few of the more common springtime vegetables.

In warmer regions, asparagus is one of the first vegetables to appear. In some places they can reach their peak as early as February and in cooler climates, it can be as late as May. These stalks are simple to prepare and there are so many different ways that you’ll never get bored---try roasting, grilling or steaming them. Asparagus is packed with vitamin K and foliate.

Celeriac is an odd looking bulb that often gets bypassed in the grocery store or market because of its bizarre appearance. It is knobby and gnarled but this vegetable is one of the most vitamin packed spring vegetables around. It is an excellent source of fiber and is full of vitamin C, K, B6, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and manganese. To prepare this vegetable, trim off any leaves and the root end. Scrub the bulb well and cut off the thick skin. Grate or cut into thin sticks if serving raw or boil cubes before mashing. Celeriac does well in stews or when roasted.

In many parts of the United States, fresh fennel is only available during the spring months. This vegetable, with its licorice-like flavoring, contains a variety of antioxidants that reduce inflammation and may reduce the risk of certain cancers. Fennel can be grilled, sautéed, roasted, eaten fresh on salads and even used as a base for soups, stocks or stews.

Springtime is high time for mustard greens, which reach their peak during cool parts of the spring and fall. This leafy green is an excellent way to add a little flavor to the average salad. The greens are high in vitamin C, A and calcium. The younger greens are tasty raw but the older leaves should be cooked. Greens can last for up to five days when wrapped in moist paper towels and stored in the crisper. Try eating them raw, in soups, steamed, boiled or sautéed.

Unlike other onions, Vidalia onions have a short springtime growing season. These sweet onions work perfectly in salads, egg dishes and dressings. They are different from your average white or yellow onion because of their high water content. In addition to their heart healthy flavonoids, their sulfur compounds are believed to help reduce symptoms of asthma and other respiratory conditions.

For many people, the most synonymous springtime food is the artichoke. This vegetable can hold up to late season frost fairly well, with the cool only affecting its outer leaves. The rest of the vegetable, in particular its heart, is protected by all its thick petals. This tough vegetable is easy to prepare; simply trim off its outer leaves, clip back the spiny points and remove the fuzzy thistles around the heart. The vegetable can be steamed, grilled and broiled without much fuss. It is best when served with a vinaigrette or melted butter as a dipping sauce.