12 Fruits and Vegetables That Peak in the Spring

It's the season of renewal! Here's the freshest local produce to look for at farmer's markets, plus recipes to try.

spring-produce-guide: pretty spring vegetables on a platter
Photo: Getty Images

Once spring has finally sprung, it's cause for celebration! If you eat with the seasons (and hey, even if you don't), few events on the food calendar beat when farmer's markets reappear, along with those first tender asparagus spears. They signal a wonderful stretch of fresh produce to come: A months-long run through a rainbow of fruits and vegetables is about to begin.

In reality, that run begins as more of a walk. Spring produce comes into season slowly—one here, one there, one delicate vegetable or allium at a time. What's available when and where varies by region, but here's a general guide to what to look for when spring crops arrive.

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Easy Artichoke Pasta Toss
Grace Elkus

Depending on where you live, the mighty artichoke flashes into season for a brief moment in spring. The edible parts of this intimidating thistle include the inner stem, heart, and yellow tips at the leaf bottoms. Yes, artichokes take some work to prepare but, with experience, the ritual of trimming them can become fun.

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Roasted Asparagus With Flaxseed Walnut Crumble
Greg DuPree

The arrival of asparagus marks the coming of spring produce in full force, and its season typically lasts into June. Asparagus has serious versatility, thriving in both star and supporting roles. Buy thin spears if you can, because they’re more tender and don’t require peeling, and store your bundles upright in a jar of water.

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Fava Beans

Fava Bean Falafel Pitas With Cucumber-Tomato Salad
Greg DuPree

These broad beans in plump green pods deserve a place in the Bean Hall of Fame (if there were such a thing). Wide yet thin and almost meaty, in a way, favas are popular in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines.

In the States, you'll find fresh favas available in mid-to-late spring. They excel with little more than a blanching, steaming, or similar simple cooking method and some salt. They can also anchor more intensive preparations, like falafel.

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Honey Whole Wheat Strawberry Clafoutis
Kelsey Hansen

A watershed moment in the progression of spring produce is the end-of-season arrival of tiny strawberries that actually emulate berries, not the watery monsters from the supermarket. Though you can do a whole lot with strawberries, sometimes it's best to do very little, like eat them right from the crate after a quick rinse.

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Smashed Pea and Ricotta Toasts
Victor Protasio

In late spring, fresh green peas reappear, reminding the world how much more delicate and all-around better they are than their frozen cousins. While these versatile legumes are used in many ways, the pairing of peas and mint creates one of spring's great flavor teams.

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Seared Tilapia With Watercress and Mango Salad
Quentin Bacon

One of the most versatile and underrated greens out there, watercress makes its debut in late May and lasts through early summer. Similar to many beloved spring vegetables—like ramps and fiddleheads—you can also buy this one foraged.

Watercress has a peppery edge and is very good raw, as a single green in a salad or part of a blend. It also holds up nicely to a sauté and can be a welcome addition to soups.

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Little Gems and Radishes With Ricotta Salata and Seeds Recipe
Greg DuPree

A dark horse among spring produce, radishes are versatile and affordable, and come in many forms, flavors, and colors. Farmer's market vendors often carry several varieties—French breakfast, lime, watermelon, and black radishes, to name a few—with their peppery sizzle coming through in slightly different ways.

Most often slivered and served raw, a pound of radishes can go a long way, but what many don't know is that they're delicious cooked, too. When subjected to heat, their peppery notes mellow, and even the leaves are delicious cooked.

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Crispy Roasted Mushrooms
Danny Kim

These days, many of us have year-round access to excellent-tasting mushrooms sprouted in climate-controlled indoor growhouses, but some truly fantastic wild mushrooms start to pop up in spring. Unless you're an expert, don’t forage them yourself, as some mushroom varieties can be highly dangerous. Instead, rely on your local market, farmer, or forager.

Among the best wild mushroom varieties in spring are morels, which have a dark, earthy nuttiness. They have smooth pale stems and tall caps that look like elongated nectarine pits.

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Getty Images

Fiddlehead ferns come on the market for a brief moment in spring. One of nature's coolest-looking vegetables, their long green stems coil almost like a butterfly’s tongue.

Prized by chefs and locavores—many of whom preserve much of their bounty to prolong the season—fiddleheads must be cooked because they're toxic if eaten raw. They're usually simply steamed or sautéed and finished with butter (or oil) and salt.

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This scrumptious dessert requires just 15 minutes of hands-on time, then leave it to the oven to bake your cake to perfection. Get the recipe for Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake.
Marcus Nilsson

Rose-tinted stalks of rhubarb make their appearance at farmer's markets in mid-to-late spring. Its season is fleeting, so aficionados of these sour, mouth-puckering stalks employ ways to store, preserve, and freeze rhubarb to enjoy it year-round.

The arrival of fresh rhubarb on produce shelves comes as a delight to shoppers who use the tart vegetable—often paired with a sweet fruit like strawberry—to make pie, galette, bread pudding, and other baked treats. An even smaller subset of rhubarb lovers knows how delicious roasted rhubarb is in savory dishes.

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Getty Images

There aren’t many greens like sorrel, with its wildly tart, almost citrusy tang. Sorrel leaves bring brightness to salads so long as you counter their punch with similarly big flavors like goat cheese, spicy radishes, or fruit. Look for sorrel in late spring and early fall.

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Getty Images

The bundled, leafy ramp might be the one spring crop to rule them all. At farmer's markets, towers of ramp bunches often sell out within minutes of opening. Ramps grow wild, and the particular warm fragrance they bring—a soft fire halfway between onions and garlic—can enhance just about any savory dish.

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