Once you’re able to step outside the house without being swaddled in outerwear, the countdown to cooking with prime spring ingredients begins. Starting in April, food fanatics dedicate themselves to visiting every farmers market in hopes of finding elusive vegetables like ramps or fiddlehead ferns. It may seem irrational, but given that a few of these favorites are only around for a matter of weeks, pro and amateur cooks alike can take their hunt quite seriously. Whether you’ve marked the start of spring on your calendar for this very moment, or have never heard of these ingredient obsessions, below, read about five items that our chefs are thrilled to see hitting farmers markets once again. Spring into it!
Jokingly referred to as “the bad boyfriend, the jazzy car of the vegetable world,” this seasonal onion features a long green stem and leaves in addition to a little bulb at the end, closely resembling scallions. We love ramps for their unique flavor (like a slightly stronger, more garlicky version of leeks) and the gotta-have-it fact that they only appear during a limited number of weeks in the springtime. You can enjoy ramps in a multitude of ways: pickled, roasted with meats and veggies, and even sautéed in place of onions.
Fiddlehead ferns are one of those ingredients that look so wild, you almost can’t believe they’re edible. These round, curlicue gems are actually very early ferns, which are harvested and available (like ramps) in a limited timeframe during spring. In flavor, they’re reminiscent of the woodiness of asparagus, with a crunchy texture similar to green beans. Whether boiled, sautéed, roasted or fried, fiddleheads are delicious, but don’t eat or serve them raw!
Fresh Fava Beans
You’ve probably seen canned or pre-shelled fava beans in the grocery store, but in the springtime, you’ll encounter fava beans still in their shell, and though slightly laborious, we find the peeling process kind of fun! Favas make a terrific base for succotash, and we also love them as a filling component in salads or as a side dish for roasted meats and fish. Boil them, toss with some oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and a little chopped feta cheese, and you’ve got a terrific dish.
As you might imagine from their name, these gorgeous orange and green miracles come from squash itself, most often zucchini. They arrive during late spring and early summer, and are used in many cuisines, particularly Mexican and Italian. You can stuff them with cheese and deep fry them, slice them into ribbons and serve raw in salads, or add them to pastas and soups. We especially love them folded into a cheesy quesadillas.
Though it more resembles a Swiss chard with its long red stalk and green leaves, rhubarb is most frequently prepared in sweet dishes like pies, tarts, cakes, and jams. It’s got a super tangy flavor and must be cooked to be enjoyed, but we’ve also taken to pickling it and serving it with savory dishes. Prime rhubarb season is from April to June, so prepare your pie crusts now!