For the freshest seasonal fruits and vegetables, spring is the best time. Plus, when those foods are locally harvested, they taste even better, and they provide you with a healthier, more nutritional punch.
When fruits and vegetables are grown far from your home and have to be transported for several hours (or even days), they lose valuable nutrients (a process known as “respiration rate,” which is the amount of carbon dioxide released per 100 grams of the food – during each hour after harvesting). However, when you prepare and eat local, seasonal foods, you get that one-two punch – better tasting and more nutritious.
Of course, what’s in season in the spring depends on where you live, so this is a general guide to seasonal foods that may be available in your area during the spring months.
No other vegetable says spring like sweet corn on the cob. It’s the sweetest right after picking, so choose corn that’s ripe with bright green husks.
Fresh tomatoes have been linked to heart health, and have been shown to help lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.
To retain their maximum amount of phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals, steam green beans for only five minutes. This also brings out their peak flavor, and makes them tender.
The freshest will look firm and colorful. Choose from strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Because the price of berries is normally based on their cost of transport, the more expensive they are, the more likely it is they travelled thousands of miles. So, locally grown equals a better price, and more nutrition.
As one of the most nutritious vegetables you can eat, research shows that chard leaves contain at least 13 different polyphenol antioxidants. Swiss chard is one of the most popular vegetables in healthy Mediterranean diets.
BABY GREENS AND ROMAINE LETTUCE
Fresh lettuces start to appear in the spring and will continue through the summer. The freshest heads of lettuce will be the crispiest.
Not just for salads, add fresh spinach leaves to pasta, or eat them steamed as a side dish. Look for crisp leaves that aren’t spotted.
SWEET BELL PEPPERS
To maximize the availability of vitamin C and carotenoids from bell peppers, allow this amazing vegetable to fully ripen.
SUGAR SNAP PEAS
Choose crisp sugar snap peas with firm, green pods. Avoid any that are darker or lighter green. Sweet and delicious sugar snap peas are also great for snacking.
Unlike the asparagus you find year round, fresh spring asparagus spears look and taste their best when they’re in season. Look for straight, crisp, green stalks.
Because research has shown that the greatest concentration of carotenoids in avocados occurs in the dark green flesh just beneath the skin, don’t slice into that dark green portion any more than necessary. Better yet, the best method is what the California Avocado Commission calls the “nick and peel” method – where you peel the avocado like a banana.