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The asparagus season (April – May ) is very short, so pay attention while local asparagus is available. More tender and vibrant than imported asparagus, when freshly picked, it’s a good source of fibre, vitamin C and beta carotene. White asparagus is an intriguing diversion from green asparagus, and is grown by depriving the plant of light during the growing process. For tips on what to look for when you’re buying asparagus and recipe ideas, watch this video.
2. Herbs and sprouts.
Delicate herbs like dill, chives and parsley are early arrivers in spring. Along with them come varieties of sprouts such as pea, radish, beet, mustard and more. These sprouts are tiny greens that are harvested while a plant is still germinating, making them incredibly tender and packed with flavour. They’re also beautiful, and add a bit of glamour to your dishes.
3. Salad greens.
Smaller salad greens (or baby greens as they are sometimes referred to) such as mâche, mustard greens, cress and arugula, come up earlier in spring than head lettuces. Specialty greens such as these have a wonderful range of flavours, from peppery cress to bitter arugula. Colourful salad greens are also packed with nutrition and fibre, and are usually high in vitamins A, B and C.
Radishes come in many varieties, and have a sharp, sometimes spicy flavour with a wonderful crunch. They are also a favourite of spring gardeners because they are fast-growing, hearty and reliable. And don’t neglect the radish greens — they’re delicious in salads.
Fresh peas are firm and sweet — very different from their preserved counterparts. Peas are a unique vegetable in that they are high in protein and also a great source of fibre. Eating them straight from the pod is a spring delight and really shouldn’t be missed. Have them raw, or blanch them very briefly until they are bright green, but still firm.
Likely the most versatile of the spring vegetables, spinach can be used in endless ways. Fresh, local spinach is so much more flavourful than the imported greens we have access to during the winter months. Surprisingly high in protein, spinach is also a good source of iron and potassium. There is one rule when it comes to cooking spinach — do it briefly. (Overcooked spinach will make you no friends.) Here are 15 ways to add spinach to dinner.
Artichokes For those of us who grew up eating canned artichoke hearts, fresh artichokes can seem a little intimidating — but they’re a wonderful treat! The simplest way to cook an artichoke is to steam or blanche it, and bite off the tender portion of the leaf. If you prefer the artichoke heart, you can get to it by cutting off the top third of the artichoke and trimming off all of the tough leaves (there will be a lot of discard). Peel off the tough outer portion of the stem as well. Finally, scoop out the fuzzy portion in the centre of the heart and discard. From here you can slice it and sauté it in olive oil, with any flavouring you desire.
Canada has the perfect climate for a rhubarb plant: cold winters and a warm summers. Once you plant rhubarb, it will be your best friend, as they require very little attention to grow. When harvesting or purchasing, look for thick stocks that are a minimum of 10 inches long to get optimal flavour. (Enjoy the stalks, but be sure to remove and discard the toxic leaves.) Here are some of our favourite rhubarb recipes.
Originally published April 2014. Updated April 2017.