Produce in Season
Using produce in season is optimal in creating the best dishes you possibly can. For many reasons chefs and foodies alike are in this constant perpetual cycle of change menus and recipes to keep up with the fruits and vegetables in season. Rightfully so because produce in season is at the peak of its nutritional value and flavor intensity. This gives your recipes and extra boost of flavor and professionalism. Making your dishes really pop with flavor and making people happy with your food is half the reason you cook right?
Other benefits from seasonality in your diet range from a wide spread of categories, from our health to our planet’s health. Regardless of why we choose to eat this way, whether selfish or benevolent, it is safe to say that the pros outweigh the cons astronomically.
March is the beginning of my favorite time in America. This is the month when the first signs of spring begin to reveal themselves and the produce shortly follows.
March is when we start to see signs of alliums. Alliums are the family of vegetables that consist of the wide varieties of onions. From chives to spring onions to leeks, we see the basis of flavor sprout from the ground and slowly find their way into our homes and onto our plates.
It is safe to say, that without this time of year; food would be considerably less flavorful. If you cannot tell by now, I am overly excited. One of my favorite spring past times is foraging for spring onions and the ultra-rare onion variety called ramps. Let’s begin with the vegetables then, shall we?
What Vegetables Are in Season?
Bok Choy is a type of Chinese cabbage. These do not resemble the cabbage we are used to though; these leafy vegetables look more like a cluster of mustard greens more than anything. The stalks should be crisp and firm with no blemishes. There should be no bruises or mushy leaves. Bok choy has a short shelf life, so buy nothing less than perfect.
There are so many varieties of carrots it is unreal. Carrots will come in all shades, sizes, and hues. If the greens are still attached, look for crisp green leaves. If they are wilted or brown, it is best to stay away. Be sure to stay away from any visual blemishes on the outside and you will be in good shape. Carrots have a long shelf life and are best kept in the fridge with air flow.
You may come across swiss chard or rainbow chard, but they are all relative to the January vegetables in season. You can eat the leaves and the stems. You want the stems to be firm while the leaves to be crisp. Avoid holes or tears in the leaves, and flimsy stems.
Luckily for the untrained eye chives are the same all over. Which is probally why the are the most used produce in season. Whether Chinese or European, you want your chives to have a dark lime green hue with no yellowish discoloration.
You also want your chives to be as dry as possible. Steer clear of wet and/or slimy chives. Chives have a short shelf life so you should buy as needed, wrap with a paper towel.
Collard greens are a staple in the southern region of the USA and rightfully so. These versatile greens can be consumed both cooked and raw. These greens fall into the brassica family and brandish an army green to dark green color. When buying this ingredient, be sure to pick bundles with no discoloration at all, the early signs of bad greens are yellowish spots throughout.
Endive is special because it is strictly a cold weather vegetable. Endives are commonly found in yellow or red varieties. They should have very tight compact leaves with no blemishes at all. Only buy the perfect endives because and break or tear in the leaves, and the endive will begin to oxidize leaving an unappetizing ingredient.
Garlic scapes are the stalks that grow out of the hard neck garlic varieties. If let grow to fully mature, the scapes will produce flowers. There is a narrow window to get these rare treats, so buy them when you can. The stalks should be firm yet a touch flexible, and blemish free if possible. These ingredients have a short shelf life, so put them in everything!
This produce in season is also known as Scallions, the green onion has a white bulb and green stalks. They offer a mild onion flavor contrary to the other alliums in the family. Green onions are readily available throughout the year but are prevalent in the wild during this time. These scallions should be crisp and flexible with a firm bulb. Stay away from wilted stalks and any moist or slimy textures.
This is a leafy green that is only found in the wild! This plant has light leafy green leaves with a centralized red stem at the base of the plant. Lambs quarters has a lot of nutritional value and is a delicacy due to its rarity. The leaves should be perky with no discoloration.
Leeks look like giant scallions with vertical fibrous layers. Leeks have white bulbs and green stalks. These alliums offer a sweet, yet mild onion flavor. Smaller leeks hold the best favor (about 1-2in diameter) and should have dark green stalks. Avoid discoloration, slimy textures, and wilted areas altogether.
Mushrooms are available year-round with a few exceptions. Varieties like creminis, buttons, shitakes, portobellos and so on are totally fine to buy any time. Just be sure to avoid mushrooms without slimy or moldy spots. Mushrooms have a moderate shelf life if stored under refrigeration. Use a dry paper towel to soak up any moisture secreted from the mushrooms.
Mustard greens are peppery and leafy greens that come in large and micro varieties. These greens can range from green, red, purple or other hues depending on multiple factors. Overall, Look for crisp and perky greens with no brown or black mushy spots. Stay away from wilted, bruised or ripped leaves to ensure maximum shelf life.
Pea shoots are pea plants at an incredibly early age, that is why you need to catch this produce in season at the right time. These pea shoots can be eaten raw or cooked and offer a mild sweet flavor. These micro greens should be bright green and delicate. Stay away from any slimy or wilted greens. Pea shoots have a short shelf life.
As far as fruits and vegetables in season, radicchio might be the least popular. Radicchio is a leafy vegetable with a bitter taste. Radicchio di Chioggia is the most common variety, but can be found in all shapes, sizes, and colors (typically red, yellow or green). In any case, you want to steer clear of the mushy or brown colored spots. Wilting is less than satisfactory as well.
Radishes come in many different shapes, sizes, and varieties like most produce in season. Most radishes are sold with greens protruding from their tops. Look for firm roots with vibrant light green tops. Avoid any dark brownish spots or slimy tops.
Look like small red onions with brown peels. These vegetables in season have a delicate onion flavor with a hint of sweetness. The bulbs should be firm and pungent. When buying, be sure to give the bulb a squeeze underneath the peel to ensure the quality.
Snap peas or Sugar Snaps are an edible pod pea with thick, rounded pods. These are a great vegetable raw or cooked. They have a great natural sweetness which makes them popular in the raw food diet and plant-based diets. These peas should be vibrant green in color, with little to no blemishes. Avoid dark brown or back mushy spots. These peas have a moderate shelf life.
Snow peas are the counter part to the sugar snap pea. Snow peas are edible pod peas that are light green in color and are thin and flexible. These peas have a mild flavor and are consumed raw or cooked. Snow peas have a noticeably short shelf life, so it is important to buy the best quality. Stay away from any discoloration or slimy textures. Snow peas should be dry.
Sorrel comes in red and green varieties. This leafy green resembles spinach but has a sharp and tart taste. Selecting sorrel is simple. Try to pick the young and delicate leaves for the best flavor. The leaves should be vibrant in red or green colors depending on the variety. Try to avoid bruises or blemishes on the leaves or crushed stems to preserve quality.
Spinach is well known throughout. The most common variety is savoy spinach but there are at least 10 others out there. Spinach leaves can be sold as loose leaves or still on the stem. The smaller leaves are ideal because they are tender, while the larger leaves tend to get more fibrous. When buying spinach, avoid the mushy brown spotted leaves. Any discoloration at all is a bad sign.
The most common sprouts are bean sprouts and alfalfa sprouts. Sprouts all very is color and shapes, but they can be sold living or harvested. If you have the choice, buy living. Sprouts are usually regulated well but nevertheless check the sprouts for any off-putting smell. They should smell like cut grass. They should also be dry, stay away from the slimy texture.
Turnips are a huge winter staple and come in many different varieties. The most common turnip is the purple top white globe which is considered the general use turnip variety. Baby turnips are a close runner up in commonality. Either way turnips have a relatively neutral flavor with hints of sweetness. Turnips should be firm with tight skin and depending on the variety the skin is edible. Stay away from dark colored mushy spots on turnips.
Yams are often confused with sweet potatoes, but they are two totally different species. Yams are tubers with dry bark-like skin. The interior is white and starchy, and not overly sweet. Yams should be firm with no soft spots at all.
What Fruits Are in Season?
Avocados are a botanically large berry with a single seed. They have a dark greenish brown outer layer with a vibrant green and creamy center. Avocados ripeness are determined based of their firmness. It they are too firm, they are not ripe yet, but they will ripen over a few days. If they are mushy, do not buy.
Always go for too firm if you must make a choice. You can always wait a couple days for them to get to their ideal ripeness. This is a highly sought seasonal produce ingredient.
Cucumbers make the appearance in March! You may be wondering why cucumbers are in the fruit section? Well cucumbers are fruit! It is only thought to be a vegetable because how it is used from a culinary standpoint.
Look for cucumbers without any blemishes or soft spots. Cucumbers should be dry on the outside, avoid any slimy textures or discolorations in the skin.
Mangos are a little different from the normal requirements from other produce in season. You want your mangos to be green and red on the outside. When you hold the mango look for the firmness of the mango, you do not want the mango to firm or is under ripe. You also want your mango to be room temperature.
Strawberries are available year-round, but this produce in season could be found in the wild during this time. Strawberries are found in different varieties but are commonly found in red or green. Strawberries are known for their distinctive aroma, color, and juicy sweetness. Look for strawberries that are bright red and plump with vibrant greens. Be sure there is no mold hiding on the berries.
These descriptions are not for you to forage with. You need to know more before foraging for things!! Most plants have look-a-likes that are poisonous. Speak to a professional before going into the wild and foraging.
Big thanks to some other blogs and sites out there that provide awesome information! Keep the seasonality movement alive by using produce in season! Spread the knowledge everyone!
If you like this fruits and vegetables in season guide, then check out the others we have!! We have it broken down by monthly produce in season!