After months of winter root vegetables and frozen veggies, spring is a time to indulge in delicate, light produce just beginning to pop out of the ground. When farmers markets are bursting with a new assortment of colors and shapes, it’s easy to try something unfamiliar in the kitchen, be it a new vegetable, a new recipe, or a new cooking method. Building menus around seasonal produce is a healthy way to support local agriculture, nourish the body, and eat well on a budget. Here are some of my favorite springtime vegetables that I love to use on our menu in the grill.
It wouldn’t feel like spring without an abundance of peas. Green peas are actually the underripe seeds of a pod that, if left to mature, would turn into beans. The convention of harvesting and consuming them early, while still full of sweet earthy flavor, began as far back as the Roman empire. Use them to add flavorful bulk to pastas and soups, or feature them as a side dish seasoned with fresh herbs or a touch of oil, butter, and lemon.
Out-of-season asparagus tends to be tough, overly fibrous, and overpriced. When fresh, though, the delicious spears need little preparation. Tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper, charred briefly on a grill, and dressed with a squeeze of lemon, they are simple and sublime. Use them in place of meat in sandwiches, as a pizza topping, or in a French-style omelet to appreciate their delicate flavor.
SUGAR SNAP PEAS
Sweet as candy with a satisfying crunch, sugar snap peas are available in large, inexpensive mounds during the spring. These vegetables originated as a cross between traditional hard-shell peas and a Chinese snow pea a few hundred years ago. Out of season, they are wrinkled and limp, and often have a bitter taste. At their peak, they are best enjoyed raw as a snack, on a crudité platter, or sliced thin and added to salads and noodle dishes.
Fresh spinach has a strong flavor and soft, almost spongy texture, unlike many of the pre-packed versions available year-round. Indulge in green smoothies and spinach salads throughout the spring. To get the most out of the season, buy and use fresh spinach frequently, because bunches tend to wilt quickly. Be sure to wash the leaves thoroughly by submerging in a bowl of cold water before using.
Also known as broad beans, fava beans are a particularly meaty bean, with many uses, such as puréeing into a sauce, tossing whole into pasta and soups, or simply enjoying by the bowlful with basic seasoning. The flavor of canned or frozen favas does not compare to fresh, so take advantage when they are in season.
This sweet variety of onion is mild and develops a silky, melt-in-your-mouth texture when cooked. At their cheapest and most tender in spring, they add a lot of flavor for a small price. Let them shine on their own by grilling them and serving them with flaky sea salt, or use them as a condiment on anything from burgers and hot dogs to baked potatoes and steaks.
This extra-sweet variety of onion has a legally protected origin and can come only from the state of Georgia, much like the sparkling wine Champagne can come only from the Champagne region of France. Despite their year-round availability, onions are sensitive crops and change dramatically based on sunlight exposure. The most desired variety of Vidalia is available only during spring and summer.