Monday, April 26, 2010

What's In Season Now? - SPRING EDITION - plus a recipe for Dandelion Greens

Eating with the seasons is both a pleasure and a challenge. There's only so many potatoes, root vegetables and storage onions you can eat through the winter before extreme culinary boredom kicks in. Luckily for us, spring has arrived with the spectacular visual fanfare of magnolias, dogwoods, cherry trees, forsythia, tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and wisteria, all in bloom! Not only have the trees, vines and bulbs awakened, but so too have the fields - green grass has pushed up and reached for the sky and cows and sheep are eagerly feasting on the pastures they roam. It's our turn too for some fresh green vegetables, and now is a great time to ask (with impatience).... what's in season now???

Ramps! Asparagus! Arugula! Lettuces, green garlic, radishes, dandelion greens, sorrel! Mushrooms, mint, chives, and soon, peas and fava beans!

Exclamation points abound because finally there is some excitement on the plate, something fresh and delicious and yet fleeting, because very soon summer vegetables will be on the table and delicate young spring vegetables will be a memory. So eat them now and in the coming weeks while you can... make a point of visiting your local farmers' market asap to see what's available and fresh from the fields. Probably best to go early in the day if you can because the spring vegetable all-stars like ramps and green garlic are usually sold out by the afternoon.

Beyond the farmers' markets and a little closer to home, have you looked for food in your own backyard lately? I'm talking about dandelion greens, the leaves that accompany those pesky yellow flowers and fantastic lollypop-like arrangements of seeds!

Go out there and pick some for your next meal (so long as your yard is pesticide-free!). Dandelions are more than just weeds, they are honest-to-goodness, wholesome greens. They are loaded with vitamins A, C, and K and even have respectable amounts of calcium and iron! Step aside, spinach! You can toss raw dandelion greens in with a salad or better yet, cook them up Greek-style! Cut up your greens into 2-inch long segments (you can eat the tender stems too!) and cook them in boiling, generously salted water. Make sure you gather a LOT of greens because they will cook down to a surprisingly small amount. Boil them for about 5-7 minutes, until tender. Drain them of excess water and then put them in a serving bowl and dress them with the juice of half a lemon, salt and black pepper to taste and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. It's so satisfying to make a great meal out of a bunch of weeds that you picked up for free in your own backyard... plus the greens couldn't be fresher and besides that, they are delicious!

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