SPRING FORWARD

2010.03.11

Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables – Spring

We love the idea of using seasonal ingredients in our cooking. Here’s a guide of fruits and vegetables that are best in Spring. There is a delicious pasta recipe to follow. Enjoy!

APRICOTS  come into season towards the end of spring in the warmer areas where they grow.

ARTICHOKES have a second crop in the fall, but the main harvest takes place in the spring when the largest thistles are available. Look for artichokes with tight, compact leaves and fresh-cut stem ends.

ARUGULA (a.k.a. rocket) is a cool-weather crop. Long days and warm weather make it bolt, or flower, and bring an unpleasantly bitter flavor to the leaves. Wild arugula is foraged in spring and again the fall. Cultivated arugula is grown year-round, thanks to coastal, temperate growing areas and winter greenhouses.

ASPARAGUS  is harvested from March through June, depending on your region. Note that thickness in no way indicates tenderness, which is related to how the plant is grown and how soon it is eaten after harvest rather than spear size.

AVOCADOS classically summer, but now harvested year-round

BEETS are in season in temperate climates fall through spring, and available from storage most of the year everywhere else. Fresh beets are often sold with their greens still attached.

CARDOONS taste a lot like artichokes; look for firm, heavy-feeling specimens.

CARROTS  are harvested year-round in temperate areas. True baby carrots – not the milled down versions of regular carrots sold as “baby carrots” at grocery stores – are available in spring and early summer.

CHARD grows year-round in temperate areas, is best harvested in late summer or early fall in colder areas, and fall through spring in warmer regions. Like all cooking greens, chard turns bitter when it gets too hot.

CHERRIES are ready to harvest at the end of spring in warmer areas. Sweet cherries, including the popular Bing and Rainier varieties, are available from May to August. Sour cherries have a much shorter season, and can be found for a week or two, usually during the middle of June in warmer areas and as late as July and August in colder regions.

FAVA BEANS are a Mediterranean favorite available in the U.S. from early spring through summer.

FENNEL has a natural season from fall through early spring.

FIDDLEHEADS are available in early spring through early summer depending on the region; these young wild ferns are foraged.

GARLIC SCAPES/GREEN GARLIC are both available in spring and early summer. Green garlic is immature garlic and looks like a slightly overgrown scallion. Garlic scapes are the curled flower stalks of hardnecked garlic varieties grown in colder climates.

GRAPEFRUIT from California, Texas, Florida, and Arizona comes into season in January and stays sweet and juicy into early summer.

GREEN ONIONS/SCALLIONS are cultivated year-round in temperate climates and come into harvest in the spring in warmer areas.

GREENS of all sorts some into season in warmer regions.

KIWIS grow on vines and are harvested winter through springing warmer and temperate areas.

KOHLRABI is harvested in the fall in cooler areas, and through early spring in more temperate areas.

KUMQUATS are still available in very early spring.

LEEKS more than about 1 1/2 inches wide tend to have tough inner cores. The top green leaves should look fresh – avoid leeks with wilted tops.

LEMONS are at their juicy best from winter into early summer.

LETTUCE starts coming into season in cooler climates (it grows through the winter in temperate and warmer areas).

MINT starts thriving in the spring.

MORELS are foraged in the wild in the spring. Look for firm specimens at specialty markets and foragers’ stalls at farmers markets.

NETTLES are sold at markets by foragers and farmers, but most people get theirs the old-fashioned way: foraging them themselves. If you’re lucky they’re growing as “weeds” in your garden.

NAVEL ORANGES hit the end of their season in the spring.

PEA GREENS are sold in big tumbled masses in spring and early summer. Look for bright vines with fresh, vibrant looking leaves. Avoid vines with brown or mushy ends or damaged leaves.

PEAS (garden, snap, snow, etc.) come into season in the spring and continue in most areas well into summer.

RADISHES are at their sweet, crunchy best in the spring.

RHUBARB is the first fruit of spring in many areas – look for heavy stalks with shiny skin.

SPINACH season varies with your climate – year-round in temperate areas, summer and fall in cooler areas, fall through spring in warmers regions.

SPRING ONIONS are simply regular onions that farmers pull from the field to thin the rows in spring and early summer.

STRAWBERRIES are mostly grown in California or Florida, where the strawberry growing season runs from January through November. Peak season is April through June. Other areas of the country have shorter growing seasons that range from five-months to as short as a few weeks in the coldest areas.

SWEET ONIONS  have slightly different seasons, but in general they are available in spring and summer.
Turnips have a sharp but bright and sweet flavor. Look for turnips that feel heavy for their size.

PASTA WITH PEAS, ASPARAGUS, BUTTER LETTUCE, AND PROSCIUTTO

Wilted butter lettuce is a surprisingly delicious addition to this pasta dish. Using campanelle or medium shell pasta is key here: The pasta catches all of the little ingredients, like the sweet green peas and the salty prosciutto.

6 TO 8 SERVINGS

INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for drizzling
1/2 pound spring onions or green onions (dark green parts discarded); white parts cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices, pale green parts cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
2 tablespoons minced shallot
Coarse kosher salt
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
1 1/2 pounds asparagus, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces
2 cups shelled fresh peas (from about 2 pounds peas in pods) or 2 cups frozen petite peas, thawed
1 pound campanelle (trumpet-shaped pasta) or medium (about 1-inch) shell-shaped pasta
1 head of butter lettuce or Boston lettuce (about 6 ounces), cored, leaves cut into 3/4-inch-wide slices
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for sprinkling
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips
PREPARATION
Melt butter with 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and shallot. Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Sauté until tender (do not brown), about 8 minutes. Add wine; increase heat to medium-high and simmer until liquid is reduced to glaze, about 3 minutes. Add broth and bring to simmer; set aside.
Cook asparagus in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, 2 to 4 minutes, depending on thickness of asparagus. Using skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer to large bowl of ice water. Return water to boil. Add peas and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes. Using skimmer, transfer to bowl with asparagus. Drain vegetables.
Return water in pot to boil. Cook pasta until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, reheat onion mixture. Add lettuce and stir just until wilted, about 1 minute. Add drained asparagus and peas; stir until heated through.
Add pasta, 1 cup Parmesan cheese, and parsley to skillet with vegetables; toss, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if dry. Season with salt and pepper.
Transfer pasta to large shallow bowl. Sprinkle prosciutto over; drizzle with olive oil. Serve, passing more cheese alongside.

Categories : TASTE