Need a reason to get in the kitchen and start cooking? Let the season's freshest produce inspire you, from crisp asparagus to crunchy radishes.
Spring is here and that means every few days something fresh and new arrives at the farmer’s market and grocery store: slender spears of crisp asparagus, bright green peas, snappy carrots, spicy radishes, and more. Keep reading for everything you need to know about enjoying fresh spring produce, including how to cook with it and store it.
These harbingers of spring shine from breakfast to dinner, in everything from frittatas to salads, sides, and main courses—you can even make asparagus pesto! When we’re not simply broiling them with a little olive oil and salt (which makes them deliciously charred and tender, and is the perfect 10-minute side for just about any dish), we love serving asparagus with soft eggs on toast; pairing them with goat cheese for homemade pizza; and tossing them with crispy pancetta, lemon, and caraway seeds.
Look for: Brightly colored spears with tight tips and firm stalks
How to store asparagus: It keeps best in a glass filled with an inch or two of water and refrigerated, with tips up and loosely covered with a plastic bag. Use them within one to three days of purchase for best flavor.
This cone-shaped delicacy is actually the edible unopened bud of a thistle plant. In exchange for a little bit of work cleaning off the outer leaves and trimming the stem, artichokes provide delicious vegetal flavor and a great meaty texture. Super versatile, artichokes can be shaved and enjoyed raw, blanched and grilled, cooked into casseroles, steamed and blended into dips, folded into pilafs, and—perhaps our favorite—doubled fried and served with a tangy lemon aioli.
Look for: Tightly packed leaves that are neither dry nor blackened or wilted, and firm stems
How to store artichokes: Store artichokes loose in the crisper drawer with humidity on high. It’s best to cook them within a day or two of purchase.
Sweet and earthy, with bulbs that come in a wide range of vibrant colors (look for red, golden orange, pink, and even two-toned red and white Chioggia beets) and stems and leaves that are also edible and delicious, beets are one of our favorite spring vegetables. Try them in a salad with pistachios and cheddar cheese or one with smoked trout and hand-torn croutons; or use them to top goat cheese crostini. As a side dish, there might be nothing better than beets with brown butter breadcrumbs. Try steaming beet greens with carrots, then drizzling with a tasty sesame dressing.
Look for: Golf ball sized roots with perky green tops attached.
How to store beets: Store beet roots and greens separately in the crisper drawer, wrapped loosely in dry plastic bags. The roots keep well for a week, but the greens wilt quickly; use them within a day or two of purchase.
This versatile vegetable is sweet, earthy, and great for everything from snacking to cooking up for dips and in soups, pastas, and even a slow-cooker carrot and beef stew! While the rainbow variety looks particularly stunning in a shaved rainbow carrot salad with pistachios and pomegranate seeds, basic orange carrots can be substituted and are equally tasty. We love carrots so much that we’ve created a collection of carrot recipe favorites.
Look for: Six-inch long carrots with the frilly tops still attached (wash and dry them and use like you would herbs like parsley or cilantro).
How to store carrots: Separate the carrots from their tops and store in plastic bags in the fridge. Use the tops ASAP but the carrots themselves will keep for weeks.
Fresh herbs instantly brighten and liven up any dish. Use them freshly chopped and sprinkled onto everything from chicken and fish to salads and cooked vegetables, and even egg dishes, just before serving, or stir them together with a little olive oil and red pepper flakes to make a tasty all-purpose fresh herb sauce. For an extra herby frittata that’s great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, try this deliciously green Chard and Herb Frittata with Cherry Tomatoes.
Look for: Vibrant, pert leaves without any holes or brown spots.
How to store fresh herbs: We love fresh herbs so much, we created this handy guide for how to store and use up fresh herbs.
Tender lettuces, radicchio, arugula, and chard—all of these favorite greens have a robust spring growing season. Ready to try something new with spring greens? Toss delicate Bibb lettuce with a basil-buttermilk dressing to make a simple but show stopping salad. Or thread wedges of radicchio onto skewers with halloumi cheese and grill on a grill pan or outdoor grill until the greens are lightly charred and the cheese is warm and melty. Try a new take on a fried egg sandwich, made with wilted spring greens, fontina cheese, and prosciutto. Or make a vegetarian Niscoise salad with a Middle Eastern twist, using crisp Romaine spears, hard cooked eggs, olives, and tahini dressing.
Look for: Compact heads and bright perky leaves. Taste the leaves if you can to test for crunch and flavor.
How to store greens: Trim off and discard any wilted or browned outer leaves. Loosely wrap or roll remaining greens in paper towel and place in a dry plastic bag in the crisper drawer, with the humidity set to high. Don’t wash greens until you’re ready to use them.
A cousin to both garlic and onions, leeks have a unique sweet flavor that is lovely on its own, as in classic oven-braised leeks, but also great in pasta with peas and pecorino, and as a topping for hake or cod (did somebody say “with bacon and roasted mushrooms”? As a matter of fact, somebody did!).
Look for: Firm unblemished stalks with sturdy bright green leaves, and root ends with rootlets firmly attached
How to store leeks: Keep them loosely wrapped in a dry plastic bag for up to five days.
Tender and sweet, peas make terrific side dishes and are great in pastas, pilafs, and salads. Pair them with tarragon, butter, and Parm, to make a quick weeknight sauce to pair with store-bought tortellini. Bake them into a quiche with scallions and grated Gruyere. Or combine them with barley to make a deliciously easy one-pan chicken dish. Peas (like corn) are best eaten as soon as possible after they’re harvested, because their sugar content begins to turn into starch as soon as they’re picked. So purchase them as fresh as you can and don’t let them linger in the fridge. Frozen peas are always a good option, if peas are not in season or not in optimal freshness condition at the market.
Look for: Bright green pods that show off the curve of the peas inside. Buy them as soon as you see them as they'll become starchier the longer they're off the stalk.
How to store: Store in the refrigerator, loosely packed in a plastic bag. Shuck just before using.
Spread them with butter, then dip them into salt for an elegant and easy cocktail companion; shave them into salads; or even turn them into a yummy side dish by roasting with olive oil, salt and pepper, then drizzling with fresh lime juice and sprinkling with fresh herbs and toasted nuts. Radishes, if you haven’t yet had a chance to experiment with them, are one of our favorite spring vegetables and can be prepared in all sorts of ways. If you’re lucky and you find them with sturdy fresh green tops, don’t toss those tops! Instead, wilt them in a skillet with some olive oil and salt; stir them into soups; or use them to give a peppery kick to frittatas, omelets, or egg scrambles.
Look for: Small radishes with the greens still attached. The bigger the bulb, the spicier the radish will be, so shop according to your preference.
How to store radishes: Remove and store the leaves separately from the bulbs. Both parts keep well (tops for two to three days; bulbs for up to two weeks) stored in dry plastic bags, loosely wrapped and kept in the crisper drawer.
Technically a vegetable, rhubarb is often thought of as a fruit, likely because it regularly turns up in all sorts of tasty sweet things, like pies, tarts, scones, and our buttery rhubarb muffins and beautiful rhubarb upside-down cake. But you can also use rhubarb to make a delicious salad and much more.
Look for: Firm medium-sized stalks (both extra thin and extra fat ones can be tough and stringy), ranging in color from green to ruby red.
How to store rhubarb: Keep stalks wrapped in a plastic bag and in the refrigerator for up to 1 week; trim away any brown or discolored parts before using. You can freeze stalks, chopped or whole, on a baking sheet, then transfer to a heavy-duty plastic bag and freeze for up to 6 months. When cooking rhubarb, always use a nonreactive pot.