5 VEGGIES TO INCLUDE IN YOUR DIET THIS SPRING
While many people buy much the same vegetables around the year, others pay closer attention to what is in season at the time rather than buying imported goods from around the globe. Spring is a great time to get fresh and locally grown produce which is better for your health, the environment and for your wallet. A trip down to your nearest farmer's market this spring should have a great deal to offer, and it's a wonderful way to get into the mood for the oncoming summer after the long, cold winter. If you are looking to reap the many rewards of this great time of year, read on to find some ideas to help you get started.
While you can easily get asparagus around the year, usually imported from Latin America, you will rarely find the quality on a par with that of locally grown asparagus when it's in season. In the northern hemisphere, asparagus is harvested between the end of February and early June. When buying asparagus at your local market, ensure that the vegetables have compact heads and unwrinkled stalks, since this will help to determine that the vegetable is not stringy and awkward to eat as the imported ones tend to be. Store the asparagus with the roots in a couple of inches of water and consume within a couple of days. Asparagus is best served with hollandaise sauce as a starter or as a side dish to meat or fish.
Artichokes are the buds from a type of thistle, and although they are not as common as they once were, these heavy, hearty vegetables have been harvested since ancient times in Europe and the Middle East. These delicious vegetables are ideal steamed and served whole, either with a little butter and lemon or as a side dish with meat. They're also suitable for using raw in salads and other cold dishes. Those who are more adventurous in the kitchen may want to go for the larger artichokes which are ideal for stuffing with a variety of fillings. You should ideally consume raw artichokes within a couple of days, although cooked ones can happily last about a week if you store them wrapped up in the fridge.
Also known as spring onions, scallions are a highly versatile spring vegetable. Although they are closely related to the common onion, they have a milder taste making them much more palatable served raw in salads and other cold dishes. Scallions can easily be identified by their small bulbs and long stalks, though the whole vegetable is edible. By contrast, the common onion comprises just the bulb of the plant. Fresh scallions should be firm, dry and have bright green tops. With slightly older scallions, it is advisable to remove any moist outer layers. Scallions are also ideal in soups, omelettes, fish dishes and stir-fries. They should be washed before use and consumed within a week.
Rhubarb is most commonly used as the main ingredient in rhubarb pie. Unlike most vegetables, it has a sweet and tangy flavour making it ideal in such deserts. The stalks are the only part of the rhubarb plant which are eaten, since the leaves themselves are slightly toxic will cause sickness. The stalks can range from pink to pale green in colour, and they often look rather like fish sticks. The darker red varieties tend to have a sweeter taste, making them even more suitable for pies and similar deserts. Fresh rhubarb should be washed before use and consumed within a few days. If there are tougher layers on the outside, you may want to remove them. The vegetable is suitable for freezing in both its raw and cooked state.
A sweet root vegetable which comes in a variety of colours ranging from red to yellow, beetroot is perhaps best known as the key ingredient in popular Eastern European soups such as borsch. The vegetable is suitable for eating both raw and cooked. Raw beetroot makes a great side dish, while roasted beetroot is ideal for soups and sauces. You can also buy beetroot with the leaves still intact, and these leaves are ideal in salads and other cold dishes. You can also use the leaves to determine how fresh the vegetable is - if the leaves are wilting or browning, the beetroot has likely been in storage for a bit too long. Store beetroots in a cool, dry place and they should keep for a few weeks.