Eating seasonally (i.e., basing your daily diet on what grows and is harvested each season) means you experience the true fresh flavors of certain foods—especially when brought from field to plate soon after harvest. Though most of us don’t live in a climate that allows year-round gardening, many crops thrive in the cool temps of early spring and most can be found at your local farmers market.
Early Spring Veggies in Season
Among the early crops farmers grow are a few of our favourites for big flavour. Spring onions are great on the grill served with other veggies or as an accompaniment for steak or chicken. They’re also good in salads, adding a delicate crunch and delicious flavour.
Spring is also when rhubarb is in season. Don’t eat the leaves; just the thick reddish stalks. They’re tart and make excellent jam or pair them with strawberries in a pie. Radishes can also be found in spring and come in many shapes and colours ranging from white to red to purple. They lend a wonderful crunch and sweet, spiciness to salads, flatbreads and when eaten French-style—sliced with butter and salt.
Spring Brings Foraged Foods
If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where they are plentiful, you may also find some unique foods that are foraged from the forest instead of harvested as a crop. Their handpicked nature means they may be more expensive and bought up quickly because of their limited supply.
You’ll often find ramps are at many farmers markets in spring. These wild relatives of onions and garlic grow during a short window of time and are sought for their delicious, strong flavour that is a mix of garlic and onion. You can pickle them, use them in stir-fries or even slice the whole ramp and serve it on pizza.
Morel mushrooms are also a cherished ingredient sought by chefs in spring. They’re one of the most desired (and delicious) mushrooms in the world. They’re oblong and slightly bulbous with an odd, spongy texture. Unlike many mushrooms, morels are meatier in texture and provide a good source of protein. Sauté them with butter, bread and fry them, or use them in risotto. Their mild flavour is often described as nutty or earthy.
Early Spring Is Perfect for Asparagus
One of our favourite early spring vegetables is asparagus. As a relative of the lily family, it grows best in spring weather. It’s generally harvested from March through June, depending on your local climate, and is one of the first green veggies spotted at farmers markets. It’s packed with vitamin C and a good source of vitamin A. Choose stalks with dry, tight tips and avoid wilted stalks.
This vegetable can be steamed, grilled, roasted and served many ways. This recipe for spring vegetable orecchiette pasta is a delicious way to display the mild flavour and crunch of asparagus.
Spring Veggie Orecchiette
Cook Time 45 minutes | Servings 6
16 oz Orecchiette pasta
2 cups fresh English peas
2 cups snow peas or sugar peas
1 cup asparagus tips
1 tbsp olive oil or butter
1 onion, diced
8 oz cremini mushrooms, halved
2 cups arugula, chopped
Salt and cracked pepper
½ cup parmesan or pecorino, grated
lemon zest from one small lemon (optional)
fresh herbs (optional)
How to make it
Bring about four quarts of salted water to a boil in a large pot. When boiling, add orecchiette and cook until pasta is al dente. During the last minute of cook time, add the asparagus tips, English peas, and snow peas to the pot. Turn heat to high and blanch for one minute. Drain pasta and veggies, reserving one cup of the pasta water. Return pasta and veggies to pot and set aside.
While the water is heating for the pasta, you can cook the other veggies. In a skillet, heat the olive oil or butter over medium heat. Sauté onion for a few minutes until tender, then add mushrooms and sauté until golden. Add a little salt and pepper, then add arugula and stir until just wilted. Set pan aside.
Whisk two eggs in a small bowl. To temper the eggs, gradually stir in three or four tablespoons of the reserved pasta water, one tablespoon at a time. Pour the egg and water mixture over the pasta and gently stir with a wooden spoon, coating the pasta.
Stir in mushrooms and arugula, most of the grated parmesan, and more pasta water as needed to loosen pasta mixture and give it more sauce. Add salt and cracked pepper to taste.
Plate the pasta and sprinkle with remaining parmesan, fresh herbs, and lemon zest.