Ah, spring is in the air, and with it comes an abundance of produce. For those of us rocking a plant-based diet (or just fans of vegetables), that means new treats for the table. Even more important, this is a chance to buy local, seasonal stuff as opposed to furthering the international import game and big chain supermarkets. Plus, spring vegetables are amazingly tasty, and the following tips will help to make the whole thing an even more pleasant experience.
Tip #1: Sample the Wares
Now, sure, supermarkets usually have some smudged glass bubbles filled with samplers of cheeses, cinnamon rolls, or the latest in canned meats, but at the farmer’s market, there’s a lot better variety for foraging. Vendors tend to have the freshest, best stuff out front and are happy to carve off a slice for you to try. Take advantage. Just go out perusing. It’s possible to sample your way through a whole fruit salad, with a couple fresh veggies in there to boot. But, remember, it’s not just a buffet. Farmers would like you to buy a little something every now and again.
Tip #2: Get Professional Help
Most folks — us — venturing out to a farmer’s market on a Saturday or Sunday morning are, at the very least, plant food enthusiast, which means we probably know a little something about fruits and vegetables. We may have even tried durian at some point or posted an awesome recipe on an awesome site like One Green Planet. Don’t let that big head get in the way. Talk to the growers there selling the produce, find out what’s best at the moment, what to expect in the coming weeks, and how they like to prepare what they’re selling. The farmer’s market can be an educational adventure as well as a shopping trip. And, school is cool.
Tip #3: Experiment More
This should be a general rule in life, but it is especially helpful when looking at a stunning display at a springtime farmer’s market. Spring is a time when you are likely to run into some veggies that stretch the imagination beyond the run-of-the-mill vegetable soup or garden salad. Don’t let it turn you off. In fact, make sure to get these oddities—fennel, rhubarb, artichokes, to name but a few—because they are powerfully delicious and packing their best punch after being cooped through the winter. If you are familiar with them all, all the better. You know what tasty delights you are getting into.
Tip #4: Plan to Scavenge
I like to think of the farmer’s market as a scavenger hunt. Get in tune with what’s in season and seek it out. Make a grocery list so that you can scan all the stalls for the right stuff at the right time. By having in mind what you want before you go, you’ll be able to sniff around for the best crop. In the spring, top crops are, as mentioned before, fennel, rhubarb, and artichokes, but the list also includes other less-standard favorites like apricots, asparagus, arugula, and beets. Lettuces and various green onions are coming into their own, as are a variety of peas (and pea greens), and root vegetables like turnips and genuine (not put through machines) baby carrots. Fruits aren’t off the menu either, so check out the citrus produce —grapefruit, lemons, and navel oranges—as well as kiwis, cherries and strawberries.
Tip #5: Prepare for the Best
Everyone has to cook asparagus for the first time at some time, so there is no shame in getting the lowdown on how to do it. Now that you’ve got the list of what to find at the springtime farmer’s market, get some recipes to go along. Let these items dictate some of your dinners over the coming weeks. In fact, to save you some time, here are a dozen links for some of One Green Planet’s suggestions on what to do with your spring bounty.
- Quinoa, Apricot, and Oat Muffin Clusters
- 8 Vegan Recipes for Artichoke Lovers
- Arugula Fennel Salad with Creamy Lemon Dressing
- Vegan Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto (Morel Mushrooms are good in the spring also.)
- 10 Simple Beet Recipes for the Fall (They work in the spring, too.)
- Raw Vegan Cherry Cheesecake
- 5 Easy Ways to Eat Fennel
- Pureed Lentil Dip with Caramelized Leeks
- Mushroom Mutter Masala: Easy Indian-style Mushroom and Green Peas
- Indian Radish Pickle
- Classic Rhubarb Crisp
- Turnip Ravioli (The turnips are not the stuffing but rather pasta part—nice.)
Bonus Tip: Remember to get it while the getting is good because summer will bring a whole new, different set of choices — equally as delicious — in just a couple of months. Eat well.
Image source: Foodista / Wikimedia Commons