It was a bit of a rough winter in many parts of the country but spring has sprung! That means all kinds of delicious fruits and vegetables are now in season. It’s also a good time to try out some produce that you’ve never had. Here are some of our favorites:

Artichokes

Health Information:

Artichokes are low in saturated fat and cholesterol. They are a very good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, folate and manganese and are high in fiber.

How to buy, how to keep:

Artichokes are available all year but spring (March to May) is when they are abundant. The most common variety is the “globe” artichoke. Look for ones with healthy leaves, not brown or withered leaves. The artichoke should feel heavy and should be crisp and firm.

Store artichokes in the refrigerator and wrapped in plastic.

Preparing:

You’ll need to trim the tops and leaves off the artichoke to get to the heart. If eating the leaves, you can steam the whole artichoke and peel the leaves off to eat them.

You’ll know the artichoke is done cooking when the leaves come off easily and the meat is tender. An artichoke heart is cooked completely when it is so tender that it can be easily pierced with a knife.

Recipe:

Try the Artichoke and White Bean Crostini.

Asparagus

Health Information:

We all know about asparagus’ odor-inducing properties (if you catch my drift) but it is also really good for you. Asparagus is a very good source of fiber, protein, folate, Vitamins A, C, E and K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Iron, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.

How to buy, how to keep:

You don’t have to buy green asparagus, it also comes in white (which is expensive) and purple. Look for spears of any size but with healthy tips and avoid reedy or tough spears.

Store in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic.

Preparing:

Cut or snap off the bottoms of each spear. You can also peel the spear to avoid that getting those tough pieces that can be hard to chew.

Most of us probably eat asparagus steamed but you can also sauté, grill and roast them. Just be careful not to over-cook, especially when steaming because asparagus can easily become too soft and mushy. You’ll know asparagus is cooked well when it can easily be pierced with a knife. If you have to force the knife, the asparagus needs to cook longer. If the knife goes through too easily the asparagus is probably over-cooked and there is little you can do to save it at that point.

Asparagus is so flavorful on its own that it needs little spices added to it. You can use salt, lemon juice or butter to quickly flavor the vegetable. Serving asparagus with poached eggs, wrapped in bacon, or drizzled with vinaigrette are also good ideas.

Carrots

Carrots are such an easy on-the-go snack and a staple in many packed lunches.

Health Information:

Carrots are a good source of thiamin, niacin, Vitamin B6, folate and manganese, and a very good source of fiber, Vitamins A, C, K and potassium.

How to buy, how to keep:

Carrots should be bright and firm, not soft, cracked and/or dry. Again, store in the refrigerator, wrapped loosely in plastic.

How to prepare:

Peel and cut the tips and ends off. Carrots can be cooked in a number of ways: steamed, braised, glazed or roasted. You’ll want your cooked carrots to be tender: not hard and crunchy, not super soft.

Try Orange-Glazed Carrots

Peas

Health Information:

Peas are also a good source of protein, Vitamins A and B6, niacin, folate, phosphorus and copper, and a very good source of fiber, Vitamins C and K, thiamin and manganese.

How to buy, how to keep:

Most of us probably buy frozen peas, right? But if you are going to buy peas in a pod, look for pods that are large, plump and full of medium-sized peas. Pods should not be brown or soft or have discolorations. Store loosely wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator.

Steaming, braising and stir-frying are the best cooking methods. You’ll find peas in a lot of pasta dishes. Peas will be bright green when they are cooked sufficiently. A pat of butter and some salt and pepper will go a long way in adding a little zing to these sweet little babies.

~Christina

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