Buying produce when it’s in season means it tastes better and usually costs less. This list gives you the dirt on what's in season come spring—plus learn how to choose the best specimens, store them, and use them up.
What to Look For: Firm, straight stems and tightly closed buds. Avoid spears that are shriveled or wet or that have thick, woody stalks.
How to Store: Wrap the cut ends in a damp paper towel and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Fresh Idea: Rinse to remove sand from the tips. Snap off or trim the bottoms (no need to peel). For an easy lunch, boil asparagus, then run under cold water to cool. Drizzle with olive oil and fresh lemon juice and sprinkle with chopped hard-cooked eggs and chives.
What to Look For: Be sure the leaves are whole and unbroken, with no signs of wilting or browning. Avoid loose leaf lettuces that appear wet; they decay quickly when moist.
How to Store: Keep unwashed greens in a plastic bag in the vegetable drawer. Don’t place them near apples or pears; they give off ethylene gas, which turns lettuce brown.
Fresh Idea: Don’t get complicated. Simply dress with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper to let the flavor shine.
What to Look For: A uniform color; a deeper red equals a sweeter taste. An exception is Rainier cherries, which have a creamy yellow and red exterior. Be sure that the fruit is plump and firm, with unblemished, glossy skins.
How to Store: Keep cherries unwashed in a bowl or an open plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Fresh Idea: Pit them and toss them with fresh mint, then serve over vanilla ice cream for dessert.
What to Look For: Smooth, bright green beans with velvety skins. Bend one in half to make sure it snaps; a bit of moisture at the breaking point shows freshness. If you can see the beans clearly through the pods, they were picked past their prime.
How to Store: To keep green beans moist, refrigerate them in a tightly sealed container.
Fresh Idea: Drizzle them with sesame oil, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes and roast at 400° F for 10 to 15 minutes for a savory side.
What to Look For: Ripe snow peas should be light green and almost translucent, with tiny seeds. The pods of garden peas should be glossy, crunchy, sweet, and full of medium-size peas. Sugar snaps should be bright green with plump pods.
How to Store: Keep all varieties unwashed and loosely wrapped in plastic in the vegetable drawer. Leave garden peas in their pods until you’re ready to use them.
Fresh Idea: Snow peas and sugar snap peas can be eaten whole after removing the stems and the strings. Garden peas should be shelled and blanched in boiling water just until they turn bright green (1 to 2 minutes). Try them smashed with olive oil, dill, goat cheese, and black pepper and spread on toast.
What to Look For: No cracks, a firm texture, and crisp, bright leaves (if they are still attached).
How to Store: Remove the leaves. Refrigerate radishes in a loosely closed plastic bag.
Fresh Idea: Just before using, trim the stems and the root ends and wash. Make like the French and snack on this: halved radishes served with soft unsalted butter and sea salt.
What to Look For: Bright green tops and firm, white bases. A no-no: wet, wilted tops.
How to Store: Keep bunches unwashed and wrapped in a plastic bag in the vegetable drawer.
Fresh Idea: Wash just before using and trim the roots. They’re great grilled whole: Season with olive oil, salt, and pepper and cook until tender (about 4 minutes).
What to Look For: The crinkly leaves of savory spinach are more flavorful (though a bit tougher) than the flat-leaf variety. Whichever kind you choose, look for a deep, dark color and unbroken leaves with no signs of wilting or yellowing.
How to Store: Refrigerate spinach unwashed and loosely wrapped in a plastic bag.
Fresh Idea: Chop off the root ends and thick stems, then swish the leaves in a bowl of cold water to rinse. Serve it raw, tossed with boiled egg, walnuts, oil, and vinegar.
What to Look For: Shiny, bright red, and fragrant = good. Bruised, withered, or brownish = bad. Also opt for smaller ones, since big berries tend to be less juicy.
How to Store: Wrap the container of remaining unwashed berries loosely in a plastic bag or paper towel and store in the refrigerator.
Fresh Idea: Wash the berries and trim off the caps just before using. Top with freshly whipped cream. Or sprinkle with sugar and balsamic vinegar and serve with sliced pound cake.
Excerpted from The Real Simple Guide to Real Life: Adulthood Made Easy. Copyright © 2015 Time Inc. All rights reserved.
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