These days, with easy access to supermarkets, you can get any type of fruit and vegetable almost any time of year. But one of the simplest changes you can make to your diet to ensure that you’re eating real, healthy food is to eat in season. As we come out of winter and all the root vegetables, it’s nice to have leafier options to look forward to. Spring is full of a variety of healthy foods that are not only good for you, but also delicious.
Ah, the artichoke. This vegetable often gets overlooked simply because people aren’t really sure what to do with it. It seems like it’s hard to cook, and besides steaming and serving with melted butter as an hors d’oeuvres, what other dishes can you turn it into? Artichokes are actually perfect for grilling, a beautiful addition to an outdoor dinner party when the spring weather allows. And what about combining it with chickpeas for a healthy pate? Or get out the spring spinach and make a spinach artichoke gratin. And there’s good reason to want more artichokes in your diet this spring: it’s a good source of folate, dietary fiber and vitamins C and K.
I once had a friend refer to leeks as a great “transition food.” It’s true; if you’re coming out of the winter season and used to cold weather dishes, you’re not quite ready for light summer salads yet. And that’s where the leek comes in. Saute them, and they will turn soft, sweet and melt-in-your-mouth. Boil them up and put in an immersion blender and you have an easy soup. They’re great to add to omelettes and frittatas, and you can even cook them down into a savory spread for crackers or bread. Leeks are high in vitamin K, a vitamin that most people are lacking, which has been shown to be effective in fighting cancer and protects your heart.
Fennel packs a lot of vitamins and nutrients into its white bulbs, including vitamin C, potassium and manganese. It’s also a great source of dietary fiber, something which more than half of Americans don’t get enough of. Fennel is as good raw as it is cooked, and if you have some on hand you can easily combine it with other vegetables for a simple spring salad. If the warmer weather has yet to come and you’re still craving comfort food, roasting fennel is another good option, and a unique replacement for roasted potatoes.
Bright and colorful, radishes are a sure sign that spring is here. You’ll get a lot of vitamin C and antioxidants out of these guys, and their peppery taste makes them an interesting addition to any dish. In fact, radishes are a cruciferous vegetable, just like broccoli, and are an excellent source of vitamin K. You can eat them raw, put them in a salad, or even roast them. And once you’ve put the radishes to use, don’t forget about the greens. You can saute them, or even make them into a pesto.
5. Morel mushrooms
Some think that mushroom season is reserved for fall. But don’t be so quick to forget about fungi. Spring means it’s time for morels, and these spongy looking, dark brown mushrooms have a nutty flavor that people love. Morels are hard to grow commercially, which means that often when you find them at the market, they have been picked in the wild. That also makes them a popular mushroom to forage for. The main health benefit that morels have going for them is vitamin D. It’s not a vitamin that’s found in many foods, but with only cup of raw morels, you’ll get 22 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin D.
Car-what? Most people are unfamiliar with cardoons, and even if you have spotted them at a spring market you may have passed them up because you weren’t sure what to do with them. Cardoons are essentially a giant thistle, and have a taste similar to artichokes. They can be found in autumn and the spring, and while your local grocery store may be hard pressed to carry it, it does pop up at farmers markets, so make sure to snag one for a different vegetable to go with your dinner. Once you’ve learned how to prepare them, you can braise them, make a soup, use them in a risotto, or even fry them.
Top Photo Credit: tibbygirl