Now’s the time to steam those artichokes and munch on those mangoes. Courtesy of produce guru, Chris Romano, senior global produce and floral coordinator at Whole Foods Market, gives us the insight on top spring produce.
Asparagus: Whether boiled, sautéed, roasted or grilled, asparagus is a go-to from February to June and at its peak in April. Look for bright green spears with no signs of shriveling; for a milder, nuttier taste, try white asparagus. It’s best to purchase just before using, to store it, keep the rubber band around the bunch and place the spears upright in a container with stems wading an about an inch of water. Friendly reminder to trim the woody ends before cooking.
Artichokes: At their peak from March through May, artichokes are at their best when they are firm and heavy with a dark green color and closed leaves (though heirloom artichokes will naturally have slightly more open leaves). Give it a squeeze and if it squeaks, it’s fresh. The heavier it is, the fresher it is! Store them in a wash or water, or rinse and place in a plastic bag in the fridge. Quick tip: Steaming artichokes is great for appetizers and entrees, and they pair wonderfully with a number of sauces too.
Strawberries: Peak season for America’s favorite berry is April. It’s important to look for bright red, firm berries that have vibrant green caps and are free of mushy spots. Don’t rinse until just before enjoying them to avoid watering down their flavor and leave the caps attached until eating for max freshness.
Spinach: When buying, look for leaves that are crisp and dark green. Spinach leaves are delicate, so handle with care to prevent bruising, which can hasten spoilage. It’s important to wash thoroughly to remove any dirt or discolored, damaged leaves. Keep fresh spinach in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer to protect from dehydration. For best results, wrap the leaves in a slightly damp paper towel and seal in a plastic bag before refrigerating.
Young salad greens/spring mix: With the colorful produce spring brings, one of the best ways to enjoy it is in a fresh salad. After all, they call it “Spring Mix” for a reason. This medley of baby lettuces and tender greens was traditionally the first harvest of the spring greens crops, hence the name. For best storage, handle with care to avoid bruising, which can shorten product life and refrigerate like spinach in the crisper drawer.
Mangoes: Lucky for us, mangoes have two seasons and one of them happens to be spring! Because mangoes can be found in varying shades of greens, yellows, reds and oranges, color is not always the best indicator of ripeness. Instead, squeeze the mango gently. Ripe mangoes will have a slight give and will become softer as they ripen. To speed up the ripening process, place unripe mangoes at room temperature or in a paper bag.
Sweet onions: From Texas Sweets to Vidalias, sweet onions are at their primefrom April to late June. The mild flavor makes them a favorite for many and a versatile ingredient for a variety of recipes. When purchasing, look for firm onions that are free of cuts and blemishes. They can last for several weeks without compromising their flavor. To maximize freshness, store them in a cool, dry and well-ventilated place. Fun fact: Sweet onions don’t actually have any more sugar than other onions; they just taste like it because they have less sulfur, and therefore, less pungency than other onions, which allows the taste of the onion’s natural sugars to come through.