Spring is here and some vegetables and fruits have finally come into season. Asparagus, rhubarb sour cherries and spring greens are a few of my favorite produce items that come into season through the end of spring. Growing up on a farm, I could enjoy them all fresh from the ground to the table. Even if you don’t own a garden, you can reap the benefits of produce coming into season this spring. Here are a few of my favorite recipes to help you celebrate the warming temperatures.
Asparagus is only in season for a very brief window of time in early spring and late fall. It is surprisingly easy to prepare a variety of ways, and is one of my favorite vegetables. When choosing asparagus, look for tips that don’t droop, vibrant color and thick stalks. Here is a recipe I learned from my mother that makes delicious asparagus that is great for any spring evening.
Asparagus with Garlic Butter
1 lb. Fresh asparagus, washed
2 tbsp. Salted butter, room temperature
1 tsp. Minced garlic
Finely grated Parmesan cheese to taste
Boil the asparagus in a 6 quart pot of water for about 5 minutes until its just slightly tender
While the asparagus cooks, mix the minced garlic with the butter in a bowl
Once the asparagus has finished cooking, drain and add the butter to the pot until melted
Serve hot and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top to taste. Makes 3-4 servings
Asparagus pairs well with beef, so grill up a steak or some juicy burgers and enjoy! You can even add your asparagus to the grill and top with butter at the table. Asparagus come into season toward the middle to end of April, but just for a short period of time. Store asparagus on its side in your crisping drawer to keep it fresh longer.
Rhubarb is a funny vegetable that is both tasty and potentially poisonous. Rhubarb leaves should never be eaten, but the tart stalks make a great addition to sweet desserts. My favorite, and rather classic, pairing is strawberry and rhubarb. Strawberries usually don’t come into season until early summer, but even early berries make a good match to fresh rhubarb. Here’s a recipe for strawberry rhubarb crumble that I have prepared several times from AllRecipes.com
Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
1 cup oats
2 sticks of butter, cold
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 cups strawberries
3 cups rhubarb, diced and cleaned
1 cup white sugar
3 tbsp. All-purpose flour
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
Mix white sugar, strawberries, rhubarb and 3 tablespoons of flour in a bowl, then spread into a 9×13 inch oven save dish.
Mix remaining flour, brown sugar, oats and butter until it forms crumbs. Sprinkle on top of the berry and rhubarb mixture.
Bake for 45 minutes until lightly browned. Serves 18
If you’ve never eaten rhubarb, this is the perfect chance to try it. In early to mid April, you will stat seeing it fresh in your stores and farmers markets. Be sure the stalks are bright red and you’re ready to go. It can be frozen easily, so as you find more strawberries in season, you can always be ready to put together a great treat.
Dark, leafy greens love cool weather and flourish in the spring, starting as early as late January. Growing up, I would walk amongst the rows of our garden helping my dad pick spinach and arugula to make fresh salads. Grocery stores and farmers markets will have a wide variety of lettuces and other greens you can serve as sides, or my favorite way, as a giant spring salad. Here is a recipe for a spring salad using veggies in season that was a staple in my diet from my childhood through today.
Super Spring Salad
2 cups fresh baby spinach
2 cups fresh lettuce
1 cup arugula
¼ cup sliced radishes
¼ cup snow peas
1 tbsp almond halves
1 small red onion, cut into rings
Salt and Pepper to taste
Honey Mustard Dressing (optional)
This one’s easy! First wash, then mix all ingredients, toss in a large bowl and chill until serving. Serves 4-6. I like to serve the dressing at the table so each person can add as much or as little as they like. You could even serve it with oil and vinegar if you want to watch the calories. The salad pairs well with grilled or fried chicken and is delicious all on its own. Greens wilt quickly, so try to serve them within a couple days of purchase.
Sweet cherries are a great treat that come into season during mid to late May, the tail end of the spring season. My parents have several sweet cherry trees in their orchard where my siblings and I picked bowl fulls of the fruit. They are a fond memory of spring and make incredible desserts. You will see these at farmers markets before you see them in store, so you may have to wait a little longer to enjoy them depending on where you live. Here is a recipe for cherry cheese tart adapted from my grandmother’s recipe that’s a great finish to your spring dinners.
Cherry Cheese Tart
1 prepared pie crust (You can make it from scratch)
2 cups sweet cherries, pitted and chopped
½ cup cherry jam or preserves
1 8 ounce packet of cream cheese
1 tub of whipped topping
2 tbsp white granulated sugar
1 tsp orange zest
In a bowl, mix together the cream cheese, whipped topping and sugar until combined, then add the orange zest and mix well
Pour the mixture into a prepared or homemade pie crust and smooth
Mix cherries with jam or preserves and pour onto the cream cheese mixture
Put the tart in the refrigerator for at least six hours, over night is best. Serves 6
Look for cherries that are firm and vibrant in color when shopping. As the spring turns to summer, you can also start looking for sour cherries, too. They are easy to freeze, so if you come across a great deal, stock up and you’ll be ready to make jams and jellies or throw a dessert together at a moment’s notice.
Now that you have a few recipes under your belt, it’s time to start preparing your Spring meals. Visit your local farmers markets and grocery stores weekly to see what new products are available. As we approach summer, expect to see more fruits and vegetables lining the shelves. Try adapting some of the recipes I’ve shared to suit your family’s needs. Cooking is the perfect time to make lasting memories you and your family will always cherish and recipes that become staples in your recipe book.