Today marks the official start of spring, and as winter’s chill begins to wane and the weather warms up, it’s time to start making use of all the fresh vegetables popping up in local markets. After we’ve relied on heavy and hearty winter dishes for the past few months, the abundance of spring vegetables brings new inspiration to the kitchen. Though what’s available this time of year varies by region, here are three early-spring crops to seek out and let take center stage.
There’s a reason peas are often called spring peas: this cool-weather crop is typically most abundant from March through July. Delicate pea pods bolt as soon as it gets hot, so make use of them while you can: eat them fresh out of the pod, or toss them in simple dishes that honor the pea’s sweet and subtle flavor, like these easy mint-and-Parmesan crostini or this pea-and-prosciutto salad.
The word asparagus came from a Greek word, possibly related to spargan, “to swell,” so it’s fitting that in the culinary world, the arrival of asparagus at the local market is considered the official sign of spring. Look for spears that are crisp and have tightly closed tips. At its peak growing season from February through June, asparagus is a good source of potassium, folic acid, fiber and vitamins A and C. Add asparagus to morning frittatas, roast it on the grill or enjoy it pureed in this creamy green soup.
This cruciferous vegetable is a fast-growing crop that thrives in the cool days of early spring and is at its peak from April through July. While radishes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, look for those that are smooth and shiny and free of blemishes and cracks. Radishes can be substituted in recipes that call for turnips, but they’re best eaten raw. Simply slice them and serve with softened butter and flavored salts for a quick seasonal snack.