There may still be snow on the ground (at least there is in my neck of the woods), but spring is almost here! That means the start of longer days, birds chirping, flowers budding, and a new crop of fruit and vegetables for your breakfast, lunch, and dinner plate! Get ready to trade those parsnips and Brussels sprouts for some herbaceous vegetables like artichokes and asparagus and sweet produce like sweet peas and strawberries. Look out for these flavorful, nutrition-packed spring produce over the next few months before the heat of the summer sets in.
These can seem intimidating to cook, but they are quite delicious to eat and full of good-for-you nutrition. Artichokes are an excellent source of fiber and a good source of vitamin C, folate, and magnesium. Believe it or not, they also have about as much potassium as a small banana! If that weren’t enough, artichokes also contain antioxidants that have been shown to promote liver health. While the artichoke heart is commonly thought of as the prize possession of this perennial vegetable, the fleshy part of the petals are just as delicious and make for a fun way to enjoy artichokes with friends. Steam up the artichoke and serve with a delicious dressing or dip, like a mustard vinaigrette or creamy yogurt dip.
A fragrant and sweet fruit when they’re at their peak in the spring. Besides their amazing flavor and beautiful color that can brighten any plate, they are full of nutrients and antioxidants like vitamin C, fiber, folate, and potassium, making them a heart-healthy addition to the diet. Strawberries are extremely versatile and can be added to savory dishes like this Berrilicious Salsa or used as a topping for sweet desserts like angel food cake.
These may seem like a distant childhood memory sitting on the plate mixed with carrots, but come spring, these sweet peas, also called English peas, are fresher and tastier than ever. Buy them fresh in the pod and shell before using or get a bag from the freezer aisle. Either way, you can enjoy these little gems in pasta dishes, pureed into creamy soup, or added to mixed vegetable salads. In addition to their pretty green color and firm texture, you’ll get some vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, and fiber.
One of the first vegetables we think of when spring arrives. Like artichokes, it is a perennial plant with a distinct floral flavor. It is an excellent source of folic acid, a key nutrient for child-bearing women and essential for heart health; plus it is a good source of potassium, and vitamins A and C. Simply roast asparagus with some olive oil for a side dish or make it part of the main event like this Pasta with Asparagus and Tomato Sauce. You can also toss it into salads or make it a topping on pizza. Asparagus pairs nicely with tomatoes, mint, ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, and more.
Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist and culinary nutrition expert. She has extensive experience as a recipe developer, writer, editor, and speaker. She is the co-author of We Can Cook: Introduce Your Child to the Joy of Cooking with 75 Simple Recipes and Activities (Barron’s, 2011), past columnist for the Culinary Corner column in Today’s Dietitian Magazine, and maintains a popular blog at JessicaLevinson.com. Jessica is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and various Dietetic Practice Groups of the AND, including Nutrition Entrepreneurs, Food and Culinary Professionals, and Dietitians in Business and Communications. Follow her out on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.