Spring is a delightful, regenerative season, full of the promise of good things to come. These harbingers of spring offer fresh inspiration after a long dark winter, while we wait for the old faithful’s of summer to be ready for harvest.
To make the most out of spring harvest, keep these pantry staples on hand: honey, sunflower seed oil, cider vinegar, tomato flavor, apple butter, almond butter, ginger syrup, pasta sauce, and salsa.
Hadley, MA was once known as the ‘asparagus capital of the world’. Asparagus thrived in the deep bed of fertile, sandy loam—where it was reputed the finest quality spears were grown. All townsfolk, young and old, were drafted to pick, wash, bunch, and crate asparagus during the harvest season in May and June. Although the region does not farm asparagus as extensively as it once did, asparagus is still called ‘Hadley Grass’ by those in the know, and it is where we source most of our asparagus in season.
How to eat: sauté, grill, boil, bake, roast, or raw—delicious served with eggs
Prep: give a quick rinse and trim stalk
Storage: stand in water in fridge
Dressing: butter, creamy sauces
Entrees: light delicate seafood, chicken, poached eggs
Herbs: garlic, chives, lemon balm, mint
Wine: light whites like blancs, reislings, or a fruity pinot noir if you are partial to red
Spinach is a well-travelled vegetable! It originated in Persia, from there it travelled to India, then China, then the Mediterranean and via Spain to England and France. Interesting fact: during World War I, wine fortified with spinach juice was given to French soldiers weakened by hemorrhage.
How to eat: sauté, boil, steam, or raw—one of the most versatile veggies in your kitchen
Prep: wash spinach well, it grows low to the ground and can sometimes be sandy
Storage: wrap in paper towel or organic cotton in fridge veggie drawer, if stored in plastic bag, keep a square of cotton or paper towel in bag to absorb moisture and keep leaves from getting wet and slimy
Dressing: creamy sauces, citrus, or warm savory dressings such as honey mustard
Entrees: excellent with pasta, chicken, or eggs
Herbs: chives, dill, thyme, lovage, nutmeg
Wine: light whites like chardonnays or blancs, champagne, for red a pinot grigio unless spinach is included in a heavier dish, like lasagna, in which case serve with merlot
Radishes are most often eaten crunchy and raw in salads, but their uses extend far beyond that. They are one of the fastest growing veggies, the smaller varieties being ready to harvest within a month which makes them a popular start to the season in spring. Radishes are also often grown as a cover crop or companion plant as they are very pest resistant, they can also be sprouted and some radishes—daikon in particular which take much longer to grow—are grown for their seed which can be pressed into oil.
How to eat: sauté, roast, grill--enjoy sliced onto crusty, buttered bread and sprinkled with salt, greens can also be sautéed
Prep: roots don’t need to be peeled, wash both roots and greens well
Storage: separate greens from roots, greens should be wrapped in cotton or paper towel, roots should be stored in a sealed glass container or bag
Dressing: butter, buttermilk, lemon, mustard, cream cheese
Entrees: pairs well with rich foods like salmon, avocado, or grilled meat
Herbs: chives, dill, thyme, lovage, mint, parsley
Wine: pinot gris, you want a medium bodied wine with notes of apple or pear
Pea shoots (or pea greens as they are sometimes called) are the green leaves of the traditional garden pea plant. They can be harvested in just 2-4 weeks, depending on the weather, and are tender and literally bursting with pea flavor. Pea shoots are nutrient dense, contain more vitamin C than blueberries, and more vitamin A than tomatoes.
How to eat: saute, boil, steam, wilt, or raw—yummy on wraps or sandwiches, also makes a good pesto
Prep: give a quick rinse
Storage: store in sealed glass container or bag in fridge, keep a piece of paper towel alongside to absorb moisture and keep leaves dry
Dressing: lemon, sesame seed, vinaigrettes, peanuts
Entrees: pork, scallops, shrimp, chicken, avocado
Herbs: mint, thyme, curry, nutmeg, chives, parsley, fennel
Wine: light dry wines, sauvignon blancs offer a refreshing balance
Rhubarb is a wonderful plant to have in your garden, it is tough and hardy, and it is a biodynamic accumulator, putting more nutrient into the soil than it removes. Only the stalks and flowers are edible. The stalks are most regularly eaten and they have a similar texture to celery stalks and have a strong, tart taste. Rhubarb roots also produce a rich, brown dye.
How to eat: chop it raw for salads and salsas, can also be pickled, or fermented into wine, but most commonly cooked down with sugar for desserts, jams, chutneys, and syrups (rhubarb syrups make an excellent addition to cocktails)
Prep: give a quick rinse and chop
Storage: store in a bag in your fridge, also dehydrates and freezes well
Dressing: sweet dressings with honey and maple syrup complement its tart flavor, also plain yogurt
Entrees: pork, chicken, beef, goose, duck
Herbs: floral herbs like rose (rose petal) or lavender, for a spice pairing try cardamom
Wine: bordeaux or muscat, if cooked into pies or syrups, serve champagne or a riesling
Spring Dug Parsnips
Spring Dug Parsnips
Spring dug parsnips are proof of magic. Planted the previous spring, they grow all year long until the snow comes, at which point they hunker down and get busy converting all their root starches to sugar. The flavor also matures and is deeper and less acidic. Parsnips are one of the few vegetables that can over-winter in the frozen ground to be dug up in the spring.
How to eat: roast, bake, boil, mash – delicious in soups
Prep: give a quick rinse and peel
Storage: store in a perforated bag in your fridge (or leave the bag open) – although parsnips overwinter in the frozen ground well, they don’t freeze well without a blanching first
Dressing: sherry, buttermilk, honey mustard, roasted garlic with olive oil, or a light vinaigrette if served raw in ribbons
Entrees: potatoes, white fish like pollock or tilapia, beef, venison, pork, lamb
Herbs: thyme, coriander, fennel seeds, sage
Wine: full bodies wines like a nice chardonnay, pinot noir, or (my favorite pairing for this veggie) sherry
Fiddleheads are the young fronds of the Ostrich Fern. They are harvested early in the season before they uncurl. Our fiddleheads are harvested sustainably in Western Mass along the banks of the Connecticut River. Each plant produces seven fronds early in the season, it is recommended only three are picked. They are a delicious, silly, fun spring delicacy, and are also good pickled.
How to eat: must be cooked to remove tannins, do not eat raw—boil, steam, or grill
Prep: as they are just emerging from the soil, wash well and give a second rinse in clean water
Storage: store in a perforated bag in your fridge (or leave the bag open)
Dressing: sesame vinaigrette, roasted garlic oil, lemon, lime
Entrees: mushrooms, pasta, trout, eggs
Herbs: chives, mint, fennel
Wine: zesty white wines pair best, pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, berdejo