Healthful eating is trending up while we’re on lockdown. Here’s a garden variety of in-season staples and delicious dishes worth cooking up while you stay safe at home.
The lockdown is changing the way we eat—and often for the better. Most of us are cooking every day, paying attention to where our food comes from, and trying not to waste what we’ve got.
If my town’s small farmers are anything to go by, we’re also supporting local food chains by subscribing at a record pace to community-supported agriculture—where small farmers provide a weekly boxed share of what’s ripe in exchange for an upfront payment. I’ve been a CSA enthusiast for years—but, this year, my favorite CSA filled up months before it usually does. I’m first on the waiting list.
CSA contents can range from grocery-store staples like carrots, onions and tomatoes in heritage varieties to fruits and vegetables that, for whatever reason (maybe they don’t travel long distances well, or last for only a few weeks), tend to stay in the region they’re grown. In years past, my CSA share has included ingredients of which I’d never heard, from hakurei turnips to garlic scapes, and part of the fun has been figuring out what to do with them.
These six fruits of the earth come into season in spring, noted here with recipes to boot—because who wants to executive-function unnecessarily in a time like this?
Radishes: If you’re planting a victory garden for the first time with kiddies, chances are you planted radishes because they’re easy to grow and lightning-fast from seed to harvest—only a few weeks.
5 minutes: Eat fresh spring radishes as the French do: sliced thin and layered onto a tranche of generously buttered baguette. Sprinkle some good salt over them—game changer. And if you don’t eat white bread, consider bending the rules for this one.
5-plus minutes: Did you know you can roast a radish? You can, and, oh, the sweet, tender complexity that roasting coaxes out of this famously peppery root veggie. Roasted radishes with garlic are out of this world.
Pea Greens: Everybody knows about peas, but not everyone knows about pea shoots, the edible leaves of the garden pea. These are available at farmers markets (or in your garden) all spring— meaning you don’t have to wait till summer to taste that flavor—and bring a hint of pea-pod freshness to any dish.
5 minutes: Toss nutritious pea shoots into your favorite salad. The vibrant green, curly tendrils of raw pea shoots always add an extra sense of springy visual flair.
5-plus minutes: As an accompaniment for dinner, a big plateful of greens stir-fried with garlic are a mouthwatering winner. Try these stir-fried pea shoots from the Omnivore’s Cookbook.
Morels: Morels come out to play in the spring, and they appear (usually wild-harvested) at farmers markets around then too. My friend calls these prized, elusive dwellers on the edge of the forest—which are notoriously difficult to domesticate—the “unicorns of the mushroom world.” My husband found one the other day while gardening, and now our joke is that he’s the only one in the family whose heart is pure enough to see them. If you should come into possession of morels…
5 minutes: Roll the morels in flour; saute in butter; add salt and pepper—people swear by this traditional treatment of morels.
5-plus minutes: Morels and ocean fish go weirdly well together. Try this parchment-cooked fish with morels, spring garlic, and thyme.
Artichokes: These spiky, delicious harbingers of spring seem like the perfect vegetable metaphor for these times: all pain and trouble, but with an unforgettable heart—if only you have the patience and presence to find it. I always think of artichokes as the kind of vegetable you have to be personally introduced to. I’ve loved artichokes since my grandma taught me how to eat them … and now, if you haven’t met them already, may I present them to you.
5 minutes: Don’t eat artichokes if you only have five minutes. They take 15 minutes to eat, after you’re done cooking them.
5-plus minutes: There are plenty of recipes, but, as far as I’m concerned, there’s only one way to eat artichokes: steam them and eat them slowly, leaf by leaf, with butter or aioli. If you get bored of that, you can try this roasted artichoke recipe because roasting vegetables always makes them amazing.
Asparagus: This veggie is only really at its best for a few weeks a year, so you better seize the day. My daughter used to called them ‘spagarus,’ and when we had them for dinner she would insist on walking around with a single raw spear in her hand (‘my spagarus’). She wouldn’t eat them though. I’ve always thought of asparagus as a grownup’s vegetable, a vegetable for those in the know.
5 minutes: Steam till they’re brilliant green; serve with butter, salt and pepper; and eat the springtime.
5-plus minutes: This one’s still easy: Roast with olive oil and parmesan. Nothing about asparagus should be hard.
Fava Beans: Farmers and gardeners like fava beans because they’re a nitrogen fixer, a crop that, when it’s ploughed under, nourishes the soil for the next thing. Eaters like fava beans because they look and taste like the essence of spring. You can find them at farmers markets or in your garden all season long.
10 minutes: Start with shelled beans. Blanch briefly; then saute as they do in this recipe. Done.
10-plus minutes: Fava beans play well with every other ingredient in this cheerful, seasonal vegetarian pasta. Use bowtie pasta if you can because it’ll make you happier.