There are certain sights and smells that tell us spring is in the air. These are not just outside. Instead of cooking spiced stews on a stove, spring reminds us again of lighter fare, salads of freshly picked greens, stir fry dishes of crisp veggies, and the joy of “al fresco” dining (eating outdoors).
As the days get longer, so do the possibilities for finding more fresh ingredients in the grocery store, even produce closer to home.
Here are some top foods associated with spring. Most reach their peak in spring—enjoy them while you can.
Asparagus signals one of the first tastes of spring – a real delicacy, especially because fresh asparagus is only good in the spring when the stalks are tender. Stir fry lightly for a side or steam lightly and add to salad. Drizzle with quality olive oil or a little lemon juice; also delicious with Parmesan cheese. Check out our own Ontario Asparagus Growers Association for more recipes, asparagus.on.ca
Arugula is definitely what we call a “cool weather crop,” meaning that seeds germinate quickly even in cold soil. Plant as soon as the garden can be worked in spring. In fact, when not forced in greenhouses, arugula does best in the spring – by summer when it flowers it gets too bitter. Great to mix into any salad or try with sliced Anjou pears, goat cheese and an oil and vinegar dressing.
Lamb – In the days of early sheep farming in northern climates, lamb were often born in the spring. Lamb therefore is sometimes used to symbolize the “re-birth” of the earth and the passing of the winter season. It is often a meal to celebrate religious and seasonal happenings. For example, lamb is a popular choice for many Easter feasts as well as part of Jewish Passover dinner. These days, you can get “spring lamb” frozen all year ‘round.
Fiddleheads are the tightly tucked buds of the ostrich fern and taste like a cross between asparagus and green beans with a buttery texture. You can only get them for about 2 weeks so watch for them! Be thorough when preparing fiddleheads. First trim the stems, scrub off the brown casings if there are any, and soak about 2 hours. Then boil them for 10 minutes until the water turns blackish.
Wild Garlic/Wild Leeks – In among the spring bluebells, you’ll find one of nature’s best spring foods – wild garlic (or sometimes referred to as ramps, wild leeks, spring onions). The leaves add a wonderfully subtle, tangy flavour to sandwiches, salads, stir-fries and soups. They are among the first plants to come up in the spring in a forest, and easy to spot.