Packed with nutrients, artichokes, asparagus, peas and salad greens are at their best during the springtime. This handy guide offers information on picking the best spring vegetables and the health benefits of each.
Make the most of artichokes while they’re in season, then stock up on frozen and canned artichokes for the rest of the year. Artichokes are a great addition to weeknight meals and quick dips.
• What You Get: Plenty of fiber and a good amount of vitamin C, potassium and folate make artichokes an obvious healthy choice.
• Shopping Tips: Look for green, plump, compact heads. Brown spots on the scales may be unattractive but indicate that the artichokes have been frost-kissed and may have improved flavor.
• Storage Tip: Refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to 1 week.
One of the first indications of the start of spring is the appearance of fresh asparagus at markets. With its delicate green color, bright flavor and tender-crisp texture, blanched asparagus adds robust flavor and bright color to a bed of greens—but you can also enjoy it raw, or roasted.
• What You Get: One large stalk of asparagus contains just 4 calories and delivers some folate, potassium and fiber.
• Shopping Tips: Skip over spears that appear shriveled or whose bud is spreading open. Go for fat, robust spears; “elegantly thin” asparagus is actually less sweet, and grassier tasting.
• Storage Tip: If you’re not going to eat your asparagus within a day or two, stand it upright in a glass of water to keep it hydrated.
Several varieties of fresh spring peas are available, including snap, snow and English shelling. Choose snow peas or snap peas if you’re looking for the tasty edible pods to throw in a salad or to simply sauté, and choose shelling varieties for the fun-to-open pods full of little green gems.
• What You Get: Bursting with nutrients, peas are a good source of vitamin K, fiber, vitamin A and folate, and provide a host of other vitamins and minerals as well.
• Shopping Tips: Sugar snap peas should be plump and bright green in color. For ultimate convenience, look for bags of already trimmed “stringless” sugar snap peas in the prepared-vegetable section.
• Storage Tip: Refrigerate peas for 2 to 4 days.
Salads using fresh, seasonal greens are an ideal way to get dinner on the table fast without spending much time in front of the stove. Sandwiches are good places for greens too: try watercress on a tuna salad sandwich or arugula on a grilled vegetable sandwich.
• What You Get: Salad greens are a virtually calorie-free food. A 2-cup serving has less than 15 calories.
• Shopping Tips: Prewashed greens are ubiquitous in produce sections. Find them in bags, plastic tubs or bulk bins. Greens come in single-item bags, such as spinach or romaine, or blends, such as mesclun or baby lettuces. Lettuces like Bibb, Boston, iceberg and romaine are often sold as heads. Greens like watercress, arugula and spinach are often sold by the bunch. Whether purchased by the bag, head or bunch, salad greens should look fresh, crisp and green. Avoid greens that are brown, yellow, wilted, blemished, bruised or slimy. If stems are still attached they should be undamaged.
• Storage Tips: It is best not to wash leaves before storing because the moisture encourages decay. If greens are sprayed in the market, dry on kitchen towels before wrapping in dry towels and placing in plastic storage bags. Most greens keep in the refrigerator crisper for 3 to 5 days.