Your hard work has paid off: You’ve been enjoying home-canned and sun-dried treasures for a while now, sipping on soups and stews while the snow falls, baking hearty winter squashes to heat up the house, and roasting all those long-keeping storage veggies. Right? Good for you — but things are finally warming up. It’s time for fresh and local food again! It's time for spring recipes.
Spring is the season for young and tender treats right from the garden. Snack on raw peas and radishes, add fresh berries to your cereal, and get ready for crisp salads every day. Start throwing herbs and cooking greens into every pot, and enjoy asparagus steamed, grilled, or any way you like.
You may not realize it, but many animal products are seasonal, too. Eggs from hens raised on pasture are likely to be most nutritious when the hens are pecking bright green grasses. When cows are chewing on those same vibrant pastures, their milk (and cheeses made with it) is also full of extra healthy goodness.
Spring is also the favorite season of food foragers. To learn to hunt wild edibles, such as delectable morel mushrooms and funky fiddleheads, connect with a local foraging group via the Internet (try searching “food foraging” and your state name). You’ll also want to get your hands on local field guides and one of the classic foraging texts: Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons or The Forager’s Harvest by Samuel Thayer.
What’s In Season?
Most of the foods below are likely to be in season during April or May in many parts of the United States. You should be able to find the best deals on these foods this time of year in grocery stores and at farmers markets, which means it’s a good time to stock up on items that preserve well. For example, you may want to dry herbs and freeze berries for later use. (To learn more about when and how to preserve different foods, see Enjoy Fresh, Local Food All Year. To see which foods are in season in your area, click on your state at this Peak Season Map.)
Herbs: chervil, chives, dill, horseradish root, mint, parsley, tarragon
Salad greens: arugula (rocket), baby lettuces, endive, mâche (corn salad), mizuna, pac choi, sorrel, spinach, watercress
Cooking greens: beet greens, chard, collards, kale, radish greens, spinach, turnip greens
Root veggies: beets, parsnips, radishes, salad turnips
Garden veggies: asparagus, garden peas, potatoes, scallions, spring onions, sugar snap peas
Sea veggies: dulse, various kelps (e.g. kombu, wakame), nori (laver), wrack
Fruits: apricots, blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums, raspberries, rhubarb (not technically a fruit), strawberries
Ephemeral garden treats: garlic scapes, pea shoots
Wild edibles: cactus pears, cattails, claytonia (miner’s lettuce), dandelion greens, fiddlehead ferns, lamb’s quarters, morel mushrooms, nettles, pokeweed, purslane, ramps (wild leeks)
Meat: Most pasture-raised meat and wild game are best in the fall and winter, but spring is a great time to stock up on frozen and aged meats. In some areas, there is also a spring turkey hunting season.
Fish: Spring is the season for most freshwater fish, including bass, carp, cat fish, crappie, pike, salmon, sunfish, trout and walleye. Saltwater seasons vary.
Dairy: Fresh milk and young cheeses made with milk from animals that graze on green pasture are highly nutritious in late spring.
Eggs: Fresh farm eggs are rich with omega-3 fatty acids and other grass-derived nutrients in spring.
Nuts and seeds: Because most kinds of nuts are not harvested in the spring, you will want to choose roasted nuts for the best flavor. (Note: Nuts freeze well, so be sure to stock up like a squirrel when they are in season.)
Try These Spring Recipes:
Spring Recipe: Berries with Crème Fraiche
Spring Recipe: Fresh Garlic and Herb Mayonnaise
Spring Recipe: Savory Bread Pudding
Spring Recipe: Pea Shoots and Garlic Scape Pesto
Spring Recipe: Spicy Korean Kimchi
Spring Vinaigrette Recipe
A Stellar Seasonal Cookbook
Every kitchen needs a seasonal cookbook, and you simply can’t go wrong with the super-user-friendly Serving Up the Harvest: Celebrating the Goodness of Fresh Vegetables by Andrea Chesman (Storey, 2007). Organized by individual veggie rather than by recipe type — with plenty of tips for growing, harvesting, measuring and cooking each ingredient — it makes cooking in season a snap.
Tabitha Alterman is a Senior Associate Editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS. In spring, she digs making fresh butter, yogurt and cheese with yummy, creamy milk from the cows and goats that thrive on the pastures of the nearby Hudson Valley.