Spring is here (even though there was a pile up of hail/snow ON THE BEACH here in Southern California. What’s happening, Climate Change?) and you know what that means…the produce is about to get reallllly good. Don’t get me wrong, the produce is good all year round with its eclectic choices but there is something about this season in particular where you start to lay out your spring dresses and get giddy like a little school girl. The sun is shining brighter and the plants and veggies are starting to wake up from its winter slumber. Let’s get exploring what’s in season for March!
Remember to support your local farmers, buy organic wherever you possibly can, and spend some time washing your fruits and veggies, ensuring that you have removed all the dirt and bacteria that might be lurking around your produce. Please note that this is not an exclusive list of what’s in season but is merely a few of my favorite choices that happen to be what I am using in the kitchen currently:
DESCRIPTION: Though kale has been getting all the acclaim in the recent year, let us not forget the milder flavor and easier-to-chew texture of spinach. Richly vibrant and bright, this leafy green provides top notch nutritional value, coming out in the top list of high ranking veggies that are oh-so-good for you.
SEASON: Though spinach is typically available year round, the time of year it is tastiest is during spring months.
FLAVOR: As a leafy green, spinach has a mild, yet slightly earthy/bitter taste. It hides well when blended in smoothies and acts as a great way to sneak in your veggies without really tasting them.
BEST COOKED AS: Use it raw in your salads or lightly saute your spinach with a some minced garlic and a pinch of sea salt. Please note that due to the high water content in spinach, it wilts down greatly when cooked so more is always best.
STORAGE: Keep in a sealed bag and do not wash until you are ready to use. Will last up to a week.
NUTRITION: With 1 cup of raw spinach, you get over half of your daily dose of vitamin A, not to mention a hearty dosage of iron and fiber (cook it to get the full benefits of iron).
ON THE MENU: Homemade Spinach Tortilla Wraps
DESCRIPTION: Though not by definition as an actual berry, strawberries are the exterior seed-bearing fruit that grow from a low hanging shrub.
SEASON: Depending on what part of the country you live in, strawberries can be available from April until around June/July. However if you live in warmer climates like California, you will see fresh, beautiful strawberries available starting in March.
FLAVOR: When in season, strawberries are the perfect balance of juicy, sweet and mildly tart.
BEST COOKED AS: Mother Nature’s treat are best when fresh from the earth, lightly rinsed with water before eating, however can be included in your favorite baked goods as well.
STORAGE: Strawberries should be lightly sealed in your fridge and are not to be washed until you are ready to eat. Can last up to 1 week.
NUTRITION: 1 cup of strawberries equals only 50 calories and 7 grams of sugar! It’s no wonder why people choose them as a healthy snack…but it doesn’t stop there. Loaded with over 150 percent of your daily intake of Vitamin C, the anti-oxidant rich berries have disease-fighting capabilities.
ON THE MENU: Strawberry Oatmeal Breakfast Bars
DESCRIPTION: Known for zesting up dishes or creating that perfect tart flavor to certain foods, limes, the close relative of lemons, are a small citrus fruit that grow on trees and have a green skin and flesh.
SEASON: Late March-August
FLAVOR: The lime juice is known for being sour and acidic but can have a sweeter flavor depending on the variety of lime used.
BEST COOKED AS: Most used for its juice and zest, limes are a great addition to salad dressings, guacamole or use as an alternative to salt on certain foods.
STORAGE: Keep at room temperature and can last up to one week. You want to look for a vibrantly green flesh though a lighter color can indicate a ripened lime. If you notice your limes going bad, you can always squeeze the juice into an ice cube tray and freeze until needed.
NUTRITION: Even though the nutritional profile of limes might not be as extensive as say, spinach, limes are best known for its Vitamin C and its natural way of adding a tart, acidic flavor to foods.
ON THE MENU: Tart Lime Cheesecakes
DESCRIPTION: Member of the lily family, it’s the tender shoots of asparagus that are cultivated and eaten.
SEASON: The end of the frost season of winter until June.
FLAVOR: Similar to the flavor of artichokes, asparagus still has a taste of its own. It’s more bitter the less you cook it and the closer you get to the tip of the asparagus, the softer in texture and milder in flavor the asparagus is.
BEST COOKED AS: Asparagus tastes best when sauted with olive oil, garlic, and a pinch of sea salt, but can also be enjoyed raw and sliced thin, as well as blanched.
STORAGE: Remove any rubber bands around the asparagus and store in a bag until ready to eat. Wash when you are ready to cook. Will remain fresh for up to a week. OR cut 1″ off the stems and place in a glass half full of water and keep in the fridge. Check the tips of asparagus to ensure freshness: they should be sturdy and not mushy or dark in color.
NUTRITION: This well-balanced veggie is low in calories but high in vitamins B6, K, fiber, and folate, helping with digestion as well as regulating blood sugar.
ON THE MENU: Asparagus Tofu Quiche
DESCRIPTION: Walnuts are the edible seed of a tree, thus making it a tree nut. It comes in a hard shell that needs to be cracked, yielding two halves. They are best known for their nutritional snacking power but are also great in oil, nut butter, and milk form.
SEASON: There is a vendor at my farmer’s market that has a beautiful display of walnuts going on currently, which piqued my interest with walnuts and when they are in season. It’s strange to think of nuts as “in season” as they are available year round but walnuts really are best consumed during November-June.
FLAVOR: Nutty (ha, I had to). Walnuts are distinct in flavor unlike cashews that tend to allow other flavors to take the lead, and have a slightly bitter yet balanced after taste.
BEST COOKED AS: Walnuts are perfectly enjoyed shelled and raw. Can also be roasted in the oven at 350 degrees until lightly browned with a variety of flavors of choice.
STORAGE: Buy unshelled whenever possible because they tend to absorb moisture upon being shelled which makes them go rancid quicker. If you do buy shelled walnuts (or any nuts for that matter), keep in an air-tight container in the fridge or freezer to keep fresh longer (up to a year or longer).
NUTRITION: 1/4 cup of walnuts has 190 calories and 5 grams of protein, they are full of antioxidants and considered heart healthy. Talk about great snacking!
ON THE MENU: Homemade Walnut Flour
Happy Seasonal Shopping!