I’ve never met a vegetable I didn’t like, and that was true even before I was more or less professionally bound to say such things by virtue of being a card-carrying Commission on Dietetics registered dietitian (RD).
And it’s an exciting time to love veggies, because the spring season’s bounty is here. Delicate, first of the season, limited-availability vegetables have finally arrived, just as my palate is ready to come out of hibernation, too.
While there are a number of exciting spring vegetables to explore, three of my favorites that have me daydreaming about getting into the kitchen are wild fiddlehead ferns, baby purple artichokes and wild ramps.
Maybe these vegetables are so exciting to me because they’re only available for a short while each year. And while they have similarities to more common veggies, I didn’t grow up eating ramps and fiddleheads, so they pique my curiosity and desire to know them inside and out.
To learn more about these limited-time specialties, I tapped into the expertise that’s all around me. As it happens, I’m lucky enough to work alongside a talented group of food lovers here at FreshDirect.
Fiddlehead ferns, the coiled tip of young ostrich fern leaves, are a true springtime delicacy. With a chewy bite and a flavor similar to okra crossed with asparagus, fiddleheads are best lightly blanched and then sautéed with a little garlic and olive oil. Be sure to gently remove any brown husk remnants before cooking.
They stay unfurled for just two weeks before continuing to mature into full-blown foliage — with a season lasting from late spring through mid-summer — so you should get these while you can!
These fiddlehead ferns are wild and extremely delicate. There may be some browning to the tips, and this is normal. To trim, simply cut off the unfurled stems, leaving the coiled tips.
Fiddlehead ferns are fat free, saturated fat free, cholesterol free, sodium free, a good source of vitamin B2, copper, phosphorous and potassium. They’re also an excellent source of vitamin B3 and C and manganese.
These deep purple baby artichokes are young shoots of the Violette de Provence artichokes, popular in southern France. They are intensely flavored with a tender texture.
As a bonus, the choke has no inedible fur, so you can eat the whole thing. Cut away a few layers of outer leaves until the leaves are all soft and tender. Then sauté, steam, or even eat them raw, drizzled with fruity olive oil — their lovely color won’t fade with cooking.
Artichokes are healthy, cholesterol free, low calorie, fat free, saturated fat free, low sodium, and a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, folate, and magnesium. Plus, these are just so pretty!
Ramps are one of the more elusive (and therefore sought-after) members of the onion family, having only brief availability in the spring season. They have tender, green leaves, a small bulb and a flavor that is both sweeter and deeper than its more common relatives.
Collected in the wild by hand, we use these instead of garlic or leeks while we can, or toss them on the grill (away from the flame) for an unbelievable side to grilled meat or seafood.
Ramps are an elegant way to add flavor without the salt. They’re also fat free, saturated fat free, trans fat free, cholesterol free, low sodium, and a good source of the antioxidant vitamin A.
What spring vegetables will you try today?
Don’t miss out on them while they’re here! Here are a few of our favorite recipes to get your creative juices flowing:
Cook with Wild Fiddlehead Ferns:
Light Spring Soup with Peas and Asparagus from “Vegetable Love”
Cook with Wild Ramps:
Warm Spring Vegetable Salad from “Vegetable Love”
Cook with Baby Purple Artichokes:
Artichoke Frittata from “Italian Farmhouse Cookbook”
(Just substitute in the baby purples for regular artichokes!)
For more of my food tips (all with great savings!), check out my Healthy Living for Less section.