Vegetable

14 Things to Cook Right Now Because Hi, Hello, It’s Spring

Green vegetables, we missed you.

March 20, 2019
Photo by Julia Gartland

Sure, the temperature is in the low 50s, the skies are cloudy, and the heat in our office is still going strong—but today is March 20, and March 20 is the first day of spring, and no one can take that away from us. Let’s put on T-shirts and buy fruit at the farmers’ market and eat it in the park. Or, you know, let’s cook.

These are the seven vegetables we have our sights set on for the new season—and all the ways we can’t wait to use ’em.


Asparagus

Asparagus is the sweetheart of spring and who are we to fight it? Any way you want to use this vegetable is a good idea. Think shaved, raw ribbons, dressed with an ultra-simple vinaigrette and covered in grated cheese. Blanched in salty water, then drizzled with brown butter, plus some lemon zest and chili flakes for good measure. Roasted until the tops are frizzled. Or char-grilled. Or sautéed. Whatever you do, combine it with pasta at least once, hopefully more.


Ramps

Ramps are as cool as an allium can hope to get. With dramatic green leaves and gradient blush bottoms, they’re sure to make an appearance at every hip restaurant around you. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t snag some from the farmers’ market and cook them yourself. Pickle some for later (your cheese boards down the road will thank you) and cook the rest to enjoy now—say, sautéed alongside crispy chicken thighs or fried in bacon fat and folded into scrambled eggs. And, when it doubt, just treat ramps the same way you would scallions (which, if you ask me, are good in just about anything).


Rhubarb

Rhubarb is unabashedly bitter, hence why it so often shows up next to sweeter counterparts—especially strawberries. And while I would never turn down a naughty rhubarb scone, what excites me most is when these stalks make an appearance at dinner. To me, rhubarb is spring’s answer to cranberries—ready to be sautéed with just about anything, turned into a savory-slanted jam, and plopped on everything from crispy pork chops to grilled chicken. Think: any wine (especially rosé), just-squeezed citrus juice, spunky aromatics (garlic, ginger, scallions), a smooch of sweetener (sugar, honey, maple syrup), plenty of salt, and any spice under the sun.


Artichokes

Intimidated by fresh artichokes? I was, too. That’s why, last year, I asked five chefs for their best tips and tricks—read all about that here. While breaking down the vegetable itself can be complicated (you’ll get the hang of it soon, promise), serving it shouldn’t be. Poach until tender, then serve with a lemony mayo. Or fry until crispy as a potato chip. Or stuff with seasoned breadcrumbs and cheese, lots of cheese, and bake until bubbly and browned.


Leeks

First things first: Leeks have to be cleaned really well. I like to slice them in half lengthwise, then give them a long shower under the sink faucet. After that, they can be anything an onion can (but with a milder flavor and prettier color!). I like sautéeing chunks and putting them toward gingery fried rice. Cheesy risotto is always a good idea. And roasting ribbons until they’re crispy is the ultimate garnish for everything from avocado toast to fish tacos.


Radishes

I only ate raw radishes for most of my life. My grandmother would sprinkle them with salt, give me a bite, and my face would pucker up like I’d just tried a lemon. These days, they’re one of my favorite vegetables. Their unshy, almost spicy flavor makes radishes a dream partner for fatty ingredients—think bread smeared with soft butter or a crudité platter with a creamy dip. If that’s still too much, try them cooked. They are great roasted or sautéed until fork-tender and wrinkly, served alongside a crusty steak or grilled fish.


Peas

More peas, please. Sorry, couldn’t help myself, they’re just so good! Tiny, sweet, and bouncy, like the vegetal counterpart to blueberries. I need not tell you that peas want to be tossed in pasta, whether it’s an eggy carbonara or cheesy cacio e pepe. But maybe you have yet to turn them into a puree to rival mashed potatoes and serve as the happiest bed for any protein, from crispy-skinned salmon to chicken thighs. You can even turn them into a whoa, why is this so good? element for guacamole. After all, backyard BBQs are coming.

Which spring vegetable are you most looking forward to? And what’s your favorite way to cook with it? Tell us in the comments!
Tags:

14 Comments

BerkeleyFarm March 30, 2019
Asparagus is the one I wait for "fresh/local/seasonal". I do a special interpretative dance when the first spears land in my farm box, and fist-pump in delight when I am at the produce specialist and the price has dropped under $2/lb/labels say "California". It is now, unlike in my far off girlhood, available year round but it's a special spring thing for me.

I usually eat it roasted with everything, in my breakfast frittatas, or a very simple one pot pasta-and-asparagus dish (with parm to serve) but I will try both of these!
 
Caroline B. March 25, 2019
I’m not sure anyone answered your question! Ramps are wild spring onions. They can be found in the eastern parts of North America. They have a pink bulb, where scallions and leeks are white. Their flavor is quite strong—between a scallion and garlic—and has a peppery bite to it. Pretty awesome!
 
Margaret March 25, 2019
Caroline B. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my question. Now I know. I guess when the recipe says 'ramps' I will just have to use spring onions. Thanks again.
 
Ruth March 28, 2019
We have lots of wild spring onions in the south (TN). But I have never heard them called Ramps, nor have I ever heard of them taking 7 years to grow. We mow them down.
 
Margaret March 24, 2019
Please don't think me sub-par but I am from the Southern Hemisphere and have no idea what 'ramps' are. I have tried to 'google' them but with not a lot of luck. Still not clear. Anyone help me out here? Please?
 
berta March 24, 2019
I live in Amish country and the neighbor children will be going door to door with their asparagus very soon. Then, yes, it will be asparagus every night. (And at a great price.)
 
Bryan P. March 21, 2019
It takes 7 years for Ramps to grow to maturity. So, how are you suggesting people acquire them?

And no inclusion of fiddleheads?
 
Eric K. March 21, 2019
Go to the farmers market?
 
Bryan P. March 21, 2019
My town hosts a farmers market ranked as 30th in the nation and #1 in New England. I've never seen Ramps there, at any farmer's market, at any store big or small, or on any menu.

I know where to forage for them, but I do so on a very limited basis and in a semi-sustained way. I also have transplanted a few into my garden and they survived, but haven't multiplied because, as stated, they take 7 years. If I harvest one- it's gone forever.

https://modernfarmer.com/2016/09/ramps/
 
Janet M. March 21, 2019
I don't even know where to forage for them--I live in NC, but never saw them in the MidWest, either. I have foraged for fiddleheads.
 
Joyce March 24, 2019
Ramps every spring at Middlebury Farmers Market and at Middlebury Natural Food Market - Middlebury, Vermont. Maybe you are close enough to check it out.
 
Noreen F. March 20, 2019
Unfortunately, here in Wisconsin, we're probably two to three months away from seeing these fresh AND local. I did pick up some asparagus last Friday without checking where it came from because I was craving something green, though!
 
Eric K. March 20, 2019
I think spring produce might be my favorite to cook with. Thanks for this, Emma!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. March 20, 2019
Asparagus for dinner every night, please.