Start Cooking With This Seasonal Produce
There are so many great fruits and vegetables that are ready to harvest once spring hits! This season we challenge you to take your favorite dishes up a notch by incorporating these springtime fruits and vegetables. To help you determine what to stock up on, we've put together a produce guide with notes on what to look for to get the ripest produce, flavor profiles and more—we've even thrown a few of our favorite Italian inspired recipes in! From Artichokes to Turnips, enjoy this produce at its peak freshness, for richer more flavorful meals.
Look for a firm bulb with tightly closed bracts petals. Discoloration on exterior bracts is usually a harmless symptom of frost damage.
Like most tender greens, arugula is perishable and needs to be used within a few days of purchase. Look for crisp leaves without mushiness.
Asparagus comes in green, white, purple and wild varieties. Look for the thinnest stalks possible; these are the most tender. Steer clear of limp and wilted asparagus.
Have Asparagus handy? Try making this Spring Panzanella!
Its skin may be smooth or bumpy, bright green or black, and they can be pear-shaped, egg-shaped or spherical. An avocado is ripe when it yields to gentle pressure when squeezed.
Beet roots, stems and leaves are all edible. Beets should feel heavy for their size, with no mushy areas. If greens are attached, they should not be wilted or have yellow spots.
Bok choy stalks should be firm and blemish-free, with nothing bruised or mushy. Leaves should be perky and green, with no brown or yellow spots.
Broccoli florets should be tightly closed and deep green, with a purplish tinge; avoid limp or yellowing broccoli. Stems should be free of mold or signs of bruising.
Red and green cabbage should have a firm, tight head and feel heavy for their size, with no black or soft spots. Savoy and Napa cabbage are generally a bit "looser".
Carrots come in all shades of purple, red, white, yellow and of course, orange. If they have the greens attached, look for feathery, perky leaves with no wilting, black spots or yellowing.
Look for an even color and a tightly packed head. Apart from its standard white, cauliflower also comes in purple, orange and green varieties.
Pascal celery, the most readily found in the US, has tall, light green stalks that are thick and very crisp. It’s commonly sold with few leaves, but if you find it with the flavorful leaves intact, they can be used as an herb.
Also known as celeriac, this turnip-sized bulb grows underground. Look for a firm, apple-sized celery root with no soft or squishy spots.
Also known as Swiss chard or rainbow chard, you can eat both the leaves and stems. You want crisp, perky and glossy leaves, with firm and healthy stems.
Cherries can be sweet (even the sour ones), delicious, and eaten raw or cooked. Look for cherries that are firm and have no bruises or browning.
Also known as garbanzo beans, the fresh green pods (and seeds inside) are edible, but most are harvested dried. Chickpea leaves are also edible.
For both Chinese and European chives, you’re looking for pert green blades without signs of yellowing, moisture or mildew.
Look for leaves that are dry and free of dark green goop. No yellowing or wilted leaves, which are signs of decay.
Select citrus that is of medium firmness. If the fruit is too hard or has green spots (except limes), it is not yet ripe. If it is too soft or bruised, it is past its prime.
Collards are a versatile and delicious member of the brassica family, and can be used both cooked and raw. Look for firm leaves and stems with no yellowing, spots or wilted leaves.
Since cucumbers are mostly water (about 96 percent water by weight), their cell walls break down quickly and turn into mush. Look for ones that are firm with no signs of discoloration.
Look for endive with tight heads that feel heavy for their size. All endive varieties should be free of black or mushy spots, with very few (to no) brown or wilting leaves.
Look for bright green, firm, plump pods with minimal blemishes (although some spotting on the pods are fine). Avoid pods that are dried out, mushy or yellowing.
Have Fava Beans handy? Try making these Ricotta and Fava Bean Toasts!
Fennel bulbs should be whitish-green, firm and heavy for their size, with no brown or mushy spots. If the feathery green fronds are still attached, they should have no signs of wilting or dryness.
Look for fiddleheads that are tightly curled and no bigger than a half-dollar. Any brown, papery bits clinging to the veggie are just a part of the plant, most of which will be rinsed off when you clean them.
Mature garlic heads should have a paper-like skin that covers all the cloves, which ideally are firm and free of mold or bruises. Green garlic has a light green stalk and white bulb at the base with darker green tops.
Have Garlic handy? Try making this Garlic & Arugula Pizza!
Grapefruit should feel heavy in your hand and the skin should feel smooth. Avoid browning or squishy spots.
Fresh green beans should have a snappy crispness when bent in half. They should be free of blemishes and mold and the pod should not be hard or dried out.
Whether you call them green onions, spring onions or scallions, these alliums all offer a slightly milder taste than their onion cousins.
Horseradish is a large and tapering root with a dark brown peel and creamy interior. Look for firm roots with no mushy or black spots.
When shopping for kale, stay clear of wilted or browning leaves. Leaves and stalks should be firm and dry instead of wilted and mushy.
Common leeks look like giant scallions and have a mild onion-y, sweet flavor. Look for leeks on the smaller side, 1-2" in stem diameter with very dark greens that have no yellowing or wilted spots.
Have Leeks handy? Try Making this Leek and Pancetta Carbonara!
Look for lemons that are bright and evenly colored. Lemons should be firm yet not rock hard and should feel heavy — a sign that it has a lot of juice.
There are many varieties of lettuce, from loose-leaf to those bought as a head. For all varieties, look for leaves that are intact and not wilting.
Color is not always a good indicator of a mandarin's ripeness, so don't hesitate to pick up one that is still a little green so long as it smells sweet.
Used both in cooking and herbal medicine, mint should have perky stems and leaves with no black spots or wilted parts. Fresh mint should also be very aromatic.
Morels are a wild, cone-shaped mushroom with honeycomb-like texture. When purchasing, avoid morels that are discolored, splotchy or slimy.
There are several varieties of mushrooms and they can be purchased fresh or dried. Look for fresh mushrooms without slimy, moldy or black spots.
Mustard greens are peppery, leafy greens in the same family as broccoli and kale. Look for perky greens that are not wilted with no mushy or black spots.
Nettles are an herb resembling an oversized mint leaf and are best bought or harvested when they are young and the stems are tender, before flower buds appear.
When purchasing dried onions, avoid brown or mushy spots and choose onions that feel heavy for their size without any signs of sprouting.
Oranges that are still green and too hard are not yet ripe. Instead, choose an orange that has medium firmness and feels juicy when lightly squeezed.
Oregano and marjoram are both available as fresh or dried herbs. To preserve freshness, store dried herbs in a cool, dry place and store fresh herbs in the refrigerator.
Parsley is available in both curly and flat-leaf varieties. For both, look for firm, perky leaves, firm stems and no wilting or yellowing of any kind.
Parsnips are a root that look like a pale carrot, usually a shade of pale yellow or ivory. Look for parsnips that are firm but not tough.
Peas are a type of legume and come in a variety of sizes and colors including green, yellow and purple. Look for pods that are plump and bright green.
No matter the variety of potato, be sure to store them in a cool, dark place with low humidity where they can be stored at least one month and up to three months.
Purslane has the most omega-3 fatty acids of any green. Its flavor is slightly tart and a bit lemony - perfect for summer salads.
Radicchio is a bitter leafy. Radicchio di Chioggia, the most common variety, resembles a small red cabbage, but radicchio comes in a variety of other shapes. In all cases, it should be crisp and unwilted.
Most radishes are sold with the tops attached: look for vibrant greens and firm roots. Don't forget you can saute the tops or use them in pesto!
Rhubarb is a tart, spring-time with rosy, celery-like stalks. Look for thinner stalks with good color for the best taste and texture — thicker stalks may be more fibrous.
With its pine-like flavor, rosemary pairs well with roasted s and grilled meats. Look for strong-smelling bunches and avoid withered leaves.
The rutabaga is a sweet root that looks a lot like a large turnip with pale yellow flesh. Rutabagas are often sold with a protective layer of wax that improves shelf life, so peel them before cooking.
With its distinctive smell, sage adds a savory note to many dishes. Look for sage that has perky, silvery green leaves and a strong smell, avoiding any withered or dry leaves.
Snap peas are excellent raw or cooked. When shopping, look for those with full pods that are vibrant in color, avoiding any with mushy spots.
Good snow peas will be bright green with thin, flexible pods. Snow peas are mildly flavored and can be served raw or cooked.
Sorrel comes in both red and green varieties, but both resemble spinach. Sorrel has a sharp, tart, green apple taste that adds a tang to salads and cooked greens.
Fresh spinach leaves can be sold as loose leaves or still attached to the stem. Look for perky, evenly colored leaves with no mushy spots. Smaller leaves will be the most tender while larger leaves can be stringy in texture.
Have Spinach handy? Try making this Spaghetti with Spinach and Pistachio-Mint Pesto!
Although you can sprout many seeds, the two most common sprouted types are bean and alfalfa. Look for sprouts that are perky and smell fresh. Avoid any that smell off or that appear slimy or wilted.
Bigger isn't always better when it comes to strawberries: look for berries that are glossy, fragrant and deeply colored all the way up to the stem.
Summer squash comes in many shapes and sizes, but smaller squash typically have a better texture and more concentrated flavor. Larger squash are better suited to baking and stuffing.
Sweeter and easier to peel than oranges, tangerines are a staple of winter farmer's markets in warm areas. Some color irregularities and blemishes are normal in tangerines, but look for fruit that doesn't feel squishy or too soft.
Tarragon is an herb with a pungent, licorice-like flavor. Look for leaves that are perky and light green, avoiding any mushy or wilted bunches.
Fresh thyme imparts a bright, almost lemony flavor to soups, roasts and other dishes. When buying thyme, leaves should be fresh, green and firmly attached to the stems. Thyme with lots of wilted leaves is less fresh.
Sweeter and milder than their larger counterparts, baby turnips are perfect for eating raw, roasting or tossing in salads. Turnips should be firm with tight skin. Avoid any that look wrinkled or withered.