Spring has sprung in Massachusetts! This means that there is an abundance of food in season right now. The tasty benefits of eating fresh seasonal food are bountiful.
Just imagining the smell of your first spring meal made with crisp asparagus may have you running to the fresh produce aisle.
But how can you ensure that you’re eating fresh foods that are in season this spring? Eat local! Eating local food is a great way to support your local community and savor the delicious (and healthy) benefits of food in season. Learn about the benefits of eating local food that’s in season.
It’s easy to eat what’s in season at home, but harder to find local food in season when you go out to eat. Thankfully, Ceres Bistro in Worcester, Massachusetts believes in farm-to-table dining, where we buy seasonal food from local purveyors and your taste buds revel in the bright, fresh flavors of what’s in season.
The following article from WickedLocal.com shares some insight on seasonal spring foods you should be keeping an eye out for in Massachusetts.
Food is Love: Here’s what’s in season for spring
By Jasper White
Fresh, locally grown produce is the holy grail of cooking.
These vegetables and greens will look better, taste better and, as is often the case, will be at their lowest price of the year because they are in season.
Since you can buy every ingredient year-round –– whether it is in season or not –– many people have lost touch with what is truly seasonal. If you are not buying from a local farm stand, it might be hard to tell.
Let me make it easier for you. Now is the season for:
Vegetables: asparagus, peas (garden, snow, sugar snap), radishes, broccoli rabes (rapini), fiddlehead ferns, parsnips (spring dug), baby carrots, garlic (green garlic), shallots, sweet onions, leeks and ramps (wild onions).
Greens: pea tendrils, spinach, arugula, young swiss chard and mustard greens, watercress, baby lettuces and exotic lettuces like mizuna and friseé.
Herbs: mint, chives, chervil, parsley and thyme.
That’s what you should be looking for when you go shopping. I recommend that you shop first, and then decide what you’re cooking. It’s not that hard; you just have to break the habit of making a shopping list that includes specific vegetables and other foods, like seafood.
Don’t worry; trust your eyes, your nose, your memory (and my list). There is an old saying: what grows together, goes together.
Now, let’s take a closer look at spring’s bounty. Asparagus are to spring what corn and tomatoes are to summer. With a unique, delicious flavor and an aroma that goes well with a wide range of flavors and cooking techniques, asparagus are extremely versatile.
Asparagus can be steamed, boiled, broiled, roasted or grilled. They can be served hot in a pasta or risotto, as a side dish with the main course, or made into soup; cold (cooked and chilled), they are terrific as an appetizer or in a composed salad (with spring greens, of course).
I have paired asparagus with prosciutto, bacon, gravlax, crab, hardboiled egg, morels and other mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, potatoes, onions, oranges –– the list is almost endless. Indeed, asparagus is the king of spring vegetables.
Peas only grow in cool weather. Garden peas are a bit of work to shuck, but snow peas and sugar snap peas require only a minimal amount of preparation, and they cook in seconds, as do shucked peas. They can be stir-fried with Asian flavors or simply sautéed in butter with a little fresh mint or chervil.
I love radishes in salads and crudités, but they have other uses. Try them as a snack, French style with butter and salt or stuffed with a little creamy blue cheese. You can even slice them and saute them in butter.
Spring-dug parsnips are left to freeze underground from the previous season and then harvested as soon as the ground thaws. They are the most exotic and spicy flavored of all root vegetables. Peel them and cut them in pieces, then barely cover them in slightly salted water. When they are fully cooked, puree them with a little of the cooking water, butter, salt and pepper. (People always ask me what the seasoning is when I cook them this way, and I say “salt and pepper.” They usually think I’m holding out.)
Spinach is the most popular spring green; young spinach makes for beautiful salads, as does arugula, watercress, mizuna, friseé and baby lettuces. After a long winter of imported lettuce, these tender salad greens are welcome.
Spinach is also wonderful when quickly sautéed or stir-fried in olive oil with shallots or garlic. Young tender Swiss chard and mustard greens can be cooked this way, as well, but they need a little more cooking time than spinach.
My favorite is pea tendrils, quickly stir-fried with garlic and ginger. The tender greens used in salads can be cooked, as well, but they should only be warmed, or what most chefs refer to as wilted. The best way to do this is to heat the pan, and add oil, butter or vinaigrette. Then add the lettuce, and remove it from the heat. Toss the greens, and then quickly remove from the pan.
Last but certainly not least is the onion family. Although most are not local until late spring or early summer, this is the peak season for garlic, shallots, scallions, sweet onions and leeks. Use them abundantly in all your cooking and notice that their flavor is milder and cleaner at this time of year when they are freshly harvested.
Ramps (wild onions) are found locally near streams after the thaw; they are also available commercially. Use them sparingly as the aftertaste can last for days. Never –– I repeat, never –– order them in a restaurant or cook them on a first date or other social situation where your breath could compromise your well-being.
Winter is over! The world is colored in green, not white, and has a new palette of flavors to enjoy. So cook with joy and love and spring vegetables.
Just to give you a brief taste of what’s in season at Ceres, take a look at these dishes that highlight the local spring flavors of Massachusetts:
- Crisped Westfield Farms Goat Cheese served with roasted beets, baby greens and whole mustard maple emulsion.
- Bistro Chicken Breast with featuring de provence, stewed white bean ragout, seasonal vegetables with a pan sauce – on our lunch menu.
- Baby Arugula Salad dressed with onion poppy seed vinaigrette, candied orange peel, spiced pecans and local goat cheese – on our lunch and dinner menu.
If these tantalizing dishes made with local and seasonal food aren’t enough to convince you of the perks of eating what’s in season, this article describes eight reasons to eat local foods.
We believe that eating foods in season make all the difference when it comes to enjoying a meal. That’s why we use fresh, seasonal ingredients from local purveyors in Massachusetts whenever we can to create an enjoyable meal.
Eat fresh, eat locally, eat happily… and celebrate what’s in season this spring!