Ahhhh, the arrival of spring! Birds twittering, trees bursting with buds, crocus and hyacinth and tulips coloring the landscape and perfuming the air. Yes, the stage is set for a spring harvest of tender greens and vegetables. Though the calendar tells us it’s so and in many parts of the country gardens are already growing, in other areas spring snows hint that the season has not quite officially sprung. And that’s OK, because the farmer’s markets and produce bins can still offer the flavors of Spring even as the white stuff lingers.
One of the last bastions of last fall and winter’s garden that will lead us into spring are hardy beets. Whether red, golden, or candy striped, they offer the earthy foundation to the tender greens in early spring salads and we love ’em! Try this recipe (from Top Chef Masters Winner, Richard Blais) for sous vide Beets with Orange Juice and Agave Nectar.
With a culinary pedigree going back to the Greeks and Romans (and spread throughout the world they conquered into Sicily, North Africa, Egypt, France, and England) the artichoke has been a constant culinary companion since. Lovely to look at and even lovelier to eat, these delectable morsels make a fantastic appetizer or side dish or in quantity, even a main dish! Baby artichokes, especially prevalent in the spring, sous vide quickly and perfectly. Try these Grilled SousVide Artichokes with Lemon Butter, cooked sous vide first and then quickly seared on the grill for a bit of caramel color and flavor before serving.
On the menu since ancient Egypt, asparagus fell out of favor in the middle ages, only to emerge as a favorite of Madame de Pompadour during the time of Louis XV. She apparently preferred only the tender tips or points d’amour (“love tips”) as they were known. Rich in vitamins and minerals, despite being 93% water, asparagus is a nutritional two-fer: nutrient dense and light on the waist! Try this quick and easy recipe for Asparagus with Citronette and Pancetta.
#4 Spring Onions
Pungent harbingers of spring, scallions or spring onions have been adding flavor to food for 5000 years (archeological records say since the Bronze Age.) The ancient Egyptians cultivated onions and worshiped them–and their layer upon layer upon layer structure–as a symbol of eternal life. A member of the lily family (and thus cousins of garlic and leeks) the spring onion is the immature form of white, yellow, or red onions. They are delicious raw or added to salads and salsas, but this recipe for Spring Onion Soup may make you a believer in cooking them, too!
#5 Green Peas
We humans have noshed on green peas since at least the 3rd Century BCE and possibly longer. Roman legionnaires supplemented their rations with wild peas gathered along the way and when they were introduced into the Court of Louis XIV, they became an instant sensation among the courtiers. No better time to enjoy them than at their peak season, which is NOW. They’re wonderful just cooked sous vide for 15 minutes at 175F/ with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, with or without a pat of butter. But try this recipe for Green Pea Soup as a light lunch or the starter to a more serious dinner!
#6 Fiddlehead Ferns
Never cultivated, so only available in limited season (now) by wild gathering (and for sale only briefly by those who gather) fiddlehead ferns are a quintessential spring delicacy. Each fiddlehead (so named because it looks like the head of a violin) represents one furled fern frond. They must be eaten quite young or they will become tough. You can boil or saute or, in this case, sous vide Fiddlehead Ferns to bring out their flavor.