It is officially spring and with that comes a special kind of food abundance. This is the time of year when we start to embrace the first fresh bits of greenery from the garden and local farms. Spring seasonal eating means less eating from the preserved pantry and more enjoyment direct from the ground to our kitchen.
The thing about seasonal eating is that it is very local – what is in-season for me in northwest Montana isn't necessarily the same thing as what's in season in south Florida. Always look to your local area first and eat what's local and in-season whenever possible. This list is a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. Most of these foods are going to be in-season in Spring for most everyone, but remember strawberries are going to be earlier in the south and later in the north.
This is usually the season of tender greens, herbs, and hardy small vegetables. There’s likely still some storage fruits and vegetables still around too – carrots, potatoes, cabbage, maybe even some lingering winter squash. Take advantage of the fresh and flavorful things from the earth this season.
These are the first bits of vegetables to pop up from the frozen ground much of the time. There is, of course, cultivated greens like spinach, orach, kale, etc. But don’t forget to forage and check the (unsprayed) yard, parks, and forests for things like dandelion, sorrel, chickweed, violets, fiddlehead ferns, nettles, and more.
There are so many different types and flavors of radishes. The hot red, round type from the grocery isn’t the only one. Look for local types and experiment to find the ones you like best. Eat them raw, roast them for a different but delicious side dish.
Whether you like the edible pod or the shelling kind. These are abundant in the spring and delicious for soups, stir-fry, steamed side dishes, and more.
Not everyone’s favorite, I know. But if you like it make the most of it in during this season. Eat asparagus roasted, steamed, pureed in soup, tossed into stir-fry, mixed into quiches, and more.
Granted these vegetables store well and are often available all winter long, however; the fresh new spring potatoes are something special. Find local farmers and eat these up in abundance in your favorite ways.
Fresh herbs like mint, chives, lovage, lemon balm, and more pop up from the earth with the first greens each spring. Toss them raw into salads, add things like mint & lemon balm to smoothies and heavily season those spring potatoes and soups with all the fresh herbal flavors.
For folks in the north, this tends to be the first fresh fruit of the season. It’s tart to be sure but makes for excellent crisps and pies all by itself or mixed with strawberries.
These beautiful berries are often the first sweet fresh bit of produce in season after a long winter. Eat them fresh, toss them in with oatmeal for breakfast, mix them with rhubarb for a compote on top of pancakes, dip them in chocolate for dessert. Simply eat them fresh for as long as they are available to you.
Morels and chanterelles are often available in the spring. If you’re not comfortable with foraging themself (safety & proper identification first!) find locals who pick and sell them. It will likely be expensive but a few now and then can really make a meal special.
Local eggs might be more prevalent as longer daylight hours take hold, use them up in every meal of the day. Make them scrambled, turn them into quiches, even use them up in sauces for pasta.
Spring Meal Planning
Spring meals tend to become lighter in nature. We move away gradually from hearty soups and thick casseroles to salads and simple preparations. Use the foods from the earth in easy ways to allow for more time outside and in the garden. This isn't usually the time for long, slow cooked meals but rather raw or quickly cooked items to let natural flavors shine through.
Greens tend to be earlier in the garden and in the wild than most anything else. Big green salads with some slices of radishes, raw peas, and torn bits of fresh herbs are a great start. Put a little homemade dressing on there and call it a side. Add some bits of protein (meat, cheese, nuts, legumes) and call it the main dish. Keep greens washed and chopped in the fridge for quick meal prep. Invest in a salad spinner to remove excess moisture – the greens will last so much longer this way.
Take advantage of the abundance of local eggs. Make quiches, frittatas, and more by mixing local greens with the eggs for added frugal nutrition. These tend to be protein packed and filling. A couple hard boiled eggs, tossed into a salad, with a few pickles left from last year's canning efforts is an easy, filling, and delicious packed lunch.
The air is still cool many days especially in the early spring and soup is always warming and tasty. In the spring, move away from heavier cream soups and eat soups with lots of broth and fresh vegetables. Puree simple ingredients (peas, broth, onions, garlic, spices) for thinner but still filling soups.
Take advantage of all the fresh greens and herbs of spring by making up large batches of pesto. Pesto is delicious served over pasta, of course, but is also great on salads, baked potatoes, rice, and more. Use pesto instead of tomato sauce on a pizza, thin it out with a little more oil and it makes an amazing salad dressing. It freezes extremely well making it an ideal and easy spring food preservation project.
Quick & Easy
For many of us, the outdoors beckon strongly in the spring. We want to eat food that fuels our activities and can be prepared quickly. Think quickly steamed peas and pan-fried meats as a simple but delicious dinner that can be done in less than 15 minutes. Keep greens and other veggies chopped in the fridge to toss together quick salads.
Whirl the strawberries in the blender with some ice and yogurt for a creamy, cool dessert or snack. Mix rhubarb with berries in pies or crisps. Top cakes and ice cream with the fresh fruits and bits of herbs to truly bask in the glow of the season's sweet treats.
Preserve Spring for Later
Spring is a season of abundance make the most of it by enjoying every bit of it now and also by saving some for later. Make jams from the strawberries and rhubarb. Freeze the pesto. Dehydrate the herbs. Do as much or as little as you're inclined but you won't regret having that mint in the dried in the pantry for winter tea or having the pesto to toss into a winter casserole.
Forget all the hype and trendiness of local, seasonal eating this spring. Rather, simply get out in the yard and local community to bring the freshness into your own kitchen. It's easy to make the most of those delicious fresh bits from the earth after a long winter with these spring seasonal eating tips.
What's your favorite way to embrace spring seasonal eating?