What's in the Bag: Fresh Spring Produce

 4/10/2018 2:49 pm
By Grace Pawlowski

Put on your rainboots, pick up your Urban Market Bags and prepare for the bountiful spring produce that’s on it’s way. We can’t get enough of the vibrant colors and crisp textures that start to appear around this time. Berries, cherries and beets, oh my! Our bags are bursting with goodies and we have some great ideas for what to do with them and how to pick the best of the best.

For quick and easy charts to keep you eating seasonally, we turn to CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) a non-profit in Northern California. CUESA works with local farmers and communities in the Bay Area to host farmer’s markets and educational workshops. Don’t live in the area? Do some research and find out what’s seasonal in your area so you can benefit from peak flavors in all your dishes.

Seasonality Chart: Fruit & Nuts
Seasonality Chart: Vegetables
Seasonality Chart: Seafood
Seasonality Chart: Flowers

Artichoke
They may look intimidating at first but artichokes are quite simple to cook (and enjoy). They should be firm and heavy with with bright green leaves. To test for freshness, press the leaves together and listen for a “squeaking” sound. Store artichokes in a plastic bag in the fridge to keep fresh for a few days. Clip thorns and steam for 25–45 minutes or until leaves can be easily pulled from the base and get ready to start dipping. 


Asparagus

Spotting these tall crisp stalks at our local market always makes us smile. One of the hallmark vegetables of the season (April is the peak), asparagus is extremely versatile. Roast in a sheet pan with olive oil and S&P, or shave the stalks and eat raw in a salad. Add a bit of green to a pasta dish or toss on the grill for an easy vegetable side. For the freshest, in-season (not to mention sweet) asparagus, look for glossy spears with tightly closed tips. If you can’t consume the day of purchase, store standing upright in a container of water and cover with a plastic bag. Our favorite way to celebrate these spring green stalks is with the nutty, Catalan red pepper sauce: Romesco. Serve alongside roasted chicken or fish for a dinner that will delight any guest.


Avocado

Ok we’ll admit it, we like to enjoy these babies all year round. To think that avocado toast has a “season” is disheartening but true. Luckily, the season is quite long and it’s just getting started. Gear up to enjoy your daily dose of heart-healthy fats starting in spring and lasting all summer long. The best avocados will be firm but yield to soft squeezing. The stem should come off easily to reveal a bring green interior. If you lift the stem and it’s brown then the avocado is likely past its prime. If want to go beyond the basics, we’ve got some unique ways to use them.


Beet

Our top contender for MVP (most vibrant produce), this nutrient packed root will give you an extra boost of energy while lending your heart and liver a helping hand. Beets can be eaten raw, pickled or roasted. If you want to get really fancy, juice them and add sugar to create an elegant syrup that can be spooned over vanilla bean ice cream.


Blueberry + Blackberry + Cherry + Raspberry + Strawberry
Oh joy, we are about to enter the season of berries and cherries. The winter months have their perks like persimmons but berries are hard to beat. June is generally the peak month for berries and cherries. Play nice with these fruits and soak them in water to remove dirt and grime instead of running under the faucet. This will preserve their shape and keep them intact. Look for blueberries with smooth skin and a dark blue or purple hue. Avoid containers with stains as that is a sign that the berries are too ripe. Blackberries should be shiny and plump, never dull. Pick raspberries that hold their shape since the soft berries will spoil sooner (great for cooking with though). Strawberries should be dry, firm and deep in color with their stems intact. They won’t ripen after they are picked so avoid any white skin. Ripe cherries will have a firm and glossy skin that’s free of blemishes. The best part about this collection of fruits, is that you can mix and match as you please in most recipes.


Butter Lettuce + Chives

Sweet and simple, butter lettuce is at the top of the list for us and is at its peak in the spring. Crisp leaves should be soaked in water to remove dirt and grime and eaten as quickly as possible. If you find limp leaves in your fridge, you can always perk them up with a cold ice bath with an added splash of apple cider vinegar. Not only will butter lettuce make a fab salad, the wide leaves also double as cups or gluten-free buns for your burger. Chives pair perfectly with these delicate leaves. Their fragrant onion flavor will bring out the best in other ingredients without overpowering the dish.


Collard Greens

The collard wrap as a tortilla substitute is truly genius. Collards are best from January through April so keep an eye out for their fresh leaves before it’s too late. Look for crisp, deep green bunches and try to avoid any yellow or torn leaves. Be sure to buy extra if you’re planning to cook them since they have a high water content and will cook down quickly.


Endive + Radish
Endive and radish are two extra crisp, best-when-eaten-raw, spring veggies that are perfect for sprucing up any crudite platter. Although you can buy these throughout the year, they are best in the spring and pair well with fresh dips and sauces. Both endive and radish should be plump, crisp and blemish free. Look for radishes with fresh green stems attached. Mix up some of the below creamy sauces and add other seasonal vegetables for a raw spread that rivals some of the best. 


Want more springtime inspiration? Check out our Pinterest board for recipes and visuals to get you going.