14 unusual spring fruits and veggies
Set aside that typical 'spring mix' salad and explore these out-of-the-box produce options.
Wed, Mar 26, 2014 at 12:50 PM
Broccoli rabe, radicchio, garlic scapes and Belgian endives are just a few of the colorful and diverse spring produce offerings.
Finally, spring has sprouted and we're more than ready to dig in to some fresh produce. From apricots to turnips, this season always has an impressive bounty to offer. But as much as we love spinach, lemons and beets, they get all the attention. Here are 14 spring fruits and veggies that don't usually come to mind for the average shopper. Besides, it is spring after all, and a little change is good, right?
The peak season for cherimoya (also known as the custard apple) runs from March through May — and that's the time to take advantage of this creamy, exotic fruit.
Photo: Diógenes el Pacífico/Flickr
Edible prickly pear cactus is reminiscent of okra in texture, and tastes tangy and fresh. While you can nab nopales year-round, their peak is during the mid-spring season. We recommend Nopales Rancheros as a starter recipe.
This miniature lettuce is cultivated in Hawaii. It's a great addition to any spring salad, with crispy and slightly curly green leaves.
They look a little bit stranger than the typical button mushroom, but morels are a favorite among gourmet chefs. They’re delicious fried, or sauteed and added to a wild mushroom risotto.
Purple and white asparagus
Get festive this spring with a greater variety of asparagus than the usual green. Tasty and more tender than the green variety, white asparagus has been deemed “white gold” and is grown by keeping the asparagus shoots covered with soil. Purple asparagus is sweet and even more tender than white asparagus. You can eat purple asparagus raw, or prepare either variety in one of these seven ways.
Radicchio and Belgian endive
These leafy chicory varieties can be used in salads or cooked. The red wine-colored leaves of the "Italian chicory" are bitter and spicy. Though it looks similar to red cabbage, radicchio leaves are more tender. Belgian endive is a smaller plant, grown underground to maintain its pale color, and tastes less bitter than its colorful counterpart. When cooked, such as in a warm salad like this Warm Escarole Salad with Smoked Chicken, the flavor of leaf chicory is not quite as intense.
These wild spring onions smell like garlic and taste like onions, and the entirety of their plants are edible. They're excellent fried, pickled or in place of onions or garlic in any recipe. We recommend trying them in this delicious fried tofu dish.
This herb goes well in soups, sauces and salads. Sorrel is actually a poisonous plant, lending a bitter taste, but it's cooked throughout the world. Here are 5 recipe ideas for this sharp-tasting herb.
This leafy vegetable has been around forever, and gets its name from the way it grows in beds around water. It's one of the healthiest foods in the world, not just for its nutritional value but also because it is relatively pesticide-free. As with most greens, watercress is great in soup, salads and sandwiches. Here are 5 ideas to get you started.
Related to the more common artichokes, cardoons are often used in Mediterranean cooking — but they are great prepared in a number of ways, from braising to frying. You need to peel the thick fibrous stalks to get to the good stuff inside.
Also known as broccoli rabe (for the buds' resemblance to broccoli), bitter-tasting rapini is closely related to turnips and mustard greens. It's common in Italian cuisine — we recommend this penne recipe.
Sure, we've all heard of fava beans, but it's important to know that you don't need to throw out those greens! The leaves taste similar to the beans and taste great fresh, wilted, sauteed and baked.
Green garlic and garlic scapes
Consider a happy sign of spring, green garlic shoots up anywhere from March to July, depending on where you live. Green garlic is literally that: young garlic that hasn't had the chance to mature. It’s not quite as pungent as "grown-up" garlic. Certain varieties of garlic are trimmed, and the freshly-separated stalks (garlic scapes) are just as yummy, with a crunchy hint of garlic. Use both in this resourceful recipe for Green Garlic Soup with Fried Garlic Scapes.
Why wait for the pea when the plant is as flavorful? From the stems to the leaves to the curly tendrils, pea shoots are fantastic in almost any dish — raw, sauteed or even added to a lively spring pasta.
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