“Savor the flavor” of eating from your neighbors! Farmers Markets are alive and many Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs have begun. When you choose local, your produce is “fresh from the farm” and not only will you reap more nutritional benefits, your produce will have more flavor. It is also a great setting to meet your local farmers and neighbors. Many farmers go to great lengths to grow the most nutritious produce possible by using sustainable techniques, picking produce within 24 hours before the market for optimum freshness and nutritional value. Check out five early types of produce you will surely find at your local farmer’s markets…and more!
Radishes are available year-round, but purchasing radishes in their natural seasons of spring and summer is when you find them at the height of flavor. Radishes are nutritious root-vegetables which complements raw salads, appetizers and main recipes. Fresh, grilled, pickled, as a garnish, radishes lend an intense, peppery flavor that is indistinguishable from other flavors. Try a variety of watermelon radish if you want a sweeter taste. Radishes contain the antioxidant sulforaphane which studies suggest protects against certain types of cancer.
Lettuce is probably one of the best known early vegetables of spring. Depending on your location, at the farmer’s market you will typically find varieties beyond what is available at the grocery store. Red and green leaf lettuce, endive, loose lettuce are just a few to choose from. You have the added benefit of speaking directly to the grower who will share different ways of using lettuce. Rinse fresh greens thoroughly to avoid any grittiness. Select varieties that have the darkest green, red and purple color for optimum antioxidant value.
A prolific perennial, rhubarb is one of the first spring fruits to arrive. Rhubarb’s tart flavor makes it the ideal pairing for sugar in sweet dishes such as cakes, crisps, compotes, and pies. Beyond that, rhubarb also works well with savory dishes such as pork and poultry. Make the most of rhubarb this year! Strawberry rhubarb pie is delicious; however, try and go beyond the commonly prepared dishes for rhubarb. Explore! Try rhubarb as a chutney for a pork or poultry dish, as a compote, or a rhubarb tart or cake. In addition to being low in calories, a good source of B vitamins and per three ounces, rhubarb provides about one quarter of your daily vitamin K requirement.
Popular in Asian cuisines, garlic scapes are one of the first crops of spring. Typically sautéed, garlic scapes can be used in any dish you would typically use garlic. Scapes are becoming increasing popular for making varieties of pesto, soups, on the grill, as a garnish or atop your favorite dip or appetizer. Garlic scapes contain more antioxidants than their onion counterparts. For optimum nutritional benefits, consume shortly after harvesting. If storing, keep in a perforated bag in the crisper.
Arugula, also known as rocket, is a cool-weather vegetable. For optimum flavor, wild arugula is best tasting in spring and again in the fall. Longer days and hot weather make it bolt or flower, which makes the leaves bitter and less pleasing to the palate. Arugula leaves contain rich sources of certain phytochemicals such as indoles, thiocyanates, sulforaphane, and isothiocyanates. Synergistically, these compounds have been found to offer protection against prostate, breast, cervical, colon, and ovarian cancers. Arugula is also an excellent source of vitamins A, C, K and folate. Arugula’s peppery flavor make it the perfect complement to salad greens, pizza, pasta, appetizers or sautéed with garlic as your side vegetable.