Nutrition Connection May 2019 Color Your Plate with Spring Produce
By Theresa Berger, founder of Mama Me Time
Colorado spring offers many seasonal produce options. With different colors, shapes, sizes and flavors, seasonal produce is a fun and healthy way to add variety and balance to your meals. You can find seasonal produce at a farmers’ market or supermarket. Read on for tips on how to use six local springtime vegetables.
Asparagus (Harvest Season: May-June)
Asparagus pairs well with many different flavors. Start by washing asparagus stems under cold running water, then dry with a clean kitchen towel. Next, remove the dense ends of the asparagus stems as these take longer to cook and are hard to chew. Sauté the stems in a stovetop pan with a drizzle of oil, minced garlic, fresh lemon slices, and salt and pepper until they are bright green (about 5 minutes on medium heat). You can also brush the prepared stems with olive oil and minced herbs then bake in the oven or grill on a barbecue until lightly roasted.
Spinach (Harvest Season: May-October)
Spinach is a versatile spring vegetable. Start by washing a large handful of fresh spinach leaves under cold running water, then blot dry with a clean kitchen towel. You can chop it up or add it whole to your favorite dishes. Fresh spinach is bulky and will cook down to a quarter of its uncooked volume. Try an omelet with spinach and shredded cheese. Add a handful of spinach to soups, pizza, pasta sauces, rice dishes or salads. To store spinach leaves, lightly wrap them with a damp paper towel and refrigerate them in a plastic bag.
Arugula (Harvest Season: May-October)
Thoroughly wash arugula to get rid of debris and sand. Dry the leaves with a salad spinner or clean kitchen towel. Arugula can be mixed with asparagus and farro for a refreshing salad (see Spring Farro Salad recipe), or stack a handful of arugula leaves on a sandwich, make a bed on a plate to serve seafood or meats, or use it as a garnish. Enjoy arugula cooked by adding a handful to your favorite pizza, or to filling for a casserole or lasagna. Store fresh arugula in the refrigerator wrapped in a damp paper towel. Unlike spinach, arugula does not need to be stored in a plastic bag.
Radishes (Harvest Season: May-November)
Radishes come in many different colors, shapes and sizes. The red table radish is the most common variety. Other colors include white, pink, purple, and green-and-pink (watermelon radish). Slice radishes and toss them with a mixed arugula and spinach salad to get the most out of your seasonal spring produce. Add sliced or minced radishes to potato salad, chicken salad or tuna salad. Thinly slice radishes and serve over tacos, layer onto a sandwich, or garnish a springtime meal to add a peppery flavor. Mix minced radishes with cream cheese and chives for a colorful spread. Cooking radishes reduces their peppery bite. Radishes can be roasted or braised with herbs and spices. The green leafy tops of radishes can be used to give a new flavor to pesto.
Rhubarb (Harvest Season: May-September)
Commonly paired with sweet treats and fruits, rhubarb is actually considered a vegetable. Rhubarb has red tender stalks that cook like celery. Dark red rhubarb stalks tend to be sweeter. Do not eat rhubarb leaves, as these are poisonous. When cooking with rhubarb, first remove the leaves and cut off the tough ends of the stalks. Cooking or baking rhubarb stalks will soften them. Combine rhubarb stalks with ginger or strawberries in sweet and savory dishes. Use chopped rhubarb stalks in cake, bread, pie and homemade jam or compote. For a savory taste, cut the stalks into ½ inch pieces and stew with meat. You can also make a rhubarb sauce to serve with lamb, chicken, beef or pork. Leaves should be removed from rhubarb before it is stored in the refrigerator. Stalks can be refrigerated for two weeks before they become limp.
Peas (Harvest Season: May-July)
Peas are an inexpensive way to enjoy more vegetables. Like other fresh springtime produce, you can enjoy peas served either cold or hot. Start by washing them in a colander and then remove the peas from the outer shell. Add peas to cold salads like potato salad or pasta salad. Cook fresh peas and mash them like potatoes for a colorful side dish. Toss fresh peas in pasta, soup, stir fry, rice or casseroles for variety and color.
- Produce is full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants that support health and wellbeing.
- Fresh spring produce provides fiber, which helps regulate appetite and helps you feel full longer.
How to prep and store fresh produce
- Always wash fresh produce before you start cooking.
- Wash produce even if you’re going to peel it, because some of the outer dirt and debris may get inside during peeling.
- Store fresh produce in the refrigerator and use within 3-5 days. Some produce, like rhubarb, may stay fresh longer.