Along with sunny skies and warm breezes, we can look forward to a whole new selection of fresh fruits and vegetables with the change in seasons. Spring produce offers vibrant colors and flavors to fill your plate with seasonal goodies.
Look out for these springtime fruits and vegetables on your next trip to the farmers market or grocery store:
Predominantly grown in California or Florida, these warm-weather states celebrate with strawberry festivals during the spring and summer months. Strawberries peak from April through June, which is when they'll taste the sweetest. They make a perfect topping for your morning yogurt or afternoon salad, but are also delicious on their own as a healthy midday snack. Have fun cooking and baking with them, too - you can use them to make a variety of dishes, such as salsa, strawberry shortcake, fruit tarts and even cocktails. Try these strawberry recipes from Cooking Light to take advantage of this seasonal fruit.
Spring is the time to introduce this vitamin-C-packed fruit into your diet. They usually peak during springtime and stay sweet and juicy until the end of summer. Add them to salads for a sweet topping or use them to make fruity jams and salsas. This sweet fruit also creates a great flavor when glazing meat, including lamb, pork tenderloin, steak and chicken. To pick out the best apricots, look for plump ones that are not overly soft. Avoid any that have cuts or cracks in the skin, and especially stay away from white spots, as they can be a sign of mold.
Spring is the main harvest for artichokes, which is when their nutty flavor and meaty texture is at its peak. When looking for them at the grocery store or farmers market, pick the ones with tight, compact leaves and fresh-cut stem ends. When you get home, you can steam them whole and simply top with a squeeze of lemon or light layer of butter. You can also marinate and grill them for a crispy, flavorful side or use them in pasta dishes. If you're ready to get creative, try these artichoke recipes from Food & Wine.
With its tart flavor and smooth texture when baked, rhubarb is a beloved pie filling. You'll want to take advantage of its peak season from April to June to use it in pies and cakes, or simmer it into sauces and syrups. If you're watching your calorie intake, try these healthy rhubarb recipes from EatingWell. Keep in mind that heavy stalks and shiny skin are signs of the freshest rhubarb.
Of all the springtime veggies, asparagus usually looks the best on the plate. Make sure to include these delicious green beauties on the menu if you're hosting a dinner party! These asparagus recipes from Cooking Light will get you inspired, including an Arugula, Egg and Charred Asparagus Salad, Beef Tenderloin with Balsamic Asparagus, Spring Risotto, vegetable soups and plenty of pasta dishes.
Garden, snap, snow - you name a pea and it's ready to eat! They come into season during spring and will stick around well into the summer months. Add them to soups and stews, top your salads with raw peas or cook them in with your favorite pasta dishes. Snap peas are perfect for stir fry, while pea sprouts make a great addition to a simple sandwich. According to Saveur, these pea recipes are so delicious than even pea-haters will love them. Challenge accepted: Test these dishes on young picky eaters!
Warmer days bring fresh, vibrant salads! The greens you'll want to grab: Arugula, spinach and lettuce. If you like the idea of a peppery and nutty flavor, arugula is the green goddess for you. Otherwise, stick to the classic spinach. While it's available year-round, this leafy green is the most delicate and tender during the warmer spring months. Look for dark green leaves for ideal freshness and flavor, avoiding any yellow or brown leaves. If you're headed to the farmers market, spring is the perfect time to find the most variety in fresh salad greens, including bibb lettuce, crisp romaine, watercress and baby greens.
Once you've stocked up on the season's freshest fruits and vegetables, check out these spring produce recipes from Food & Wine including Spring Vegetable Paella, Penne with Asparagus, Sage and Peas, Warm Strawberry Crumb Cake, Steamed Leeks with Mustard Shallot Vinaigrette and Honey Roasted Apricots with Amaretti Cookies. If you're hungry for more, get inspired by these easy spring recipes from Real Simple.
Pro meal planning tip: Double the recipes so you have extra portions to eat during the week for lunch. Plus, stock up on enough of these fruits and veggies for smart snacking during the week. Time to get cooking!