Spring Produce Guide: Tips for Buying, Storing and Cooking


Spring is in the air in Ottawa (despite the fact that some snowbanks are still taller than I am). Getting through the last few weeks of wintery weather is much easier when you start to consider all the wonderful things coming our way as the temperature rises.

You’re going to start seeing more exciting options in the produce aisles and market stands soon, so we want to make sure you’re prepared with the knowledge to buy, store and prepare them confidently so you can make the first colourful local fruit and veg shine on your dinner table (or lunchbox, or desk!)

Our spring produce guide also offers some recipe inspiration for what to do with all those delicious things you buy only to get home and think, “now what am I going to do with this…”. Start dreaming of warmer days, al fresco dining and simple, fresh meals… spring is almost here!

Rhubarb

Buying: Look for crisp, firm stalks. Colour may vary from various shades of green to deep ruby red.
Storing: Wrap and refrigerate your rhubarb stalks. Alternatively, it can be frozen if cleaned and cut into pieces.
Cooking: Avoid eating leaves as they contain oxalic acid which can irritate the mouth. Rhubarb can be cooked into a sauce and served alongside grilled meats, it can be added to pies and galettes, muffins and quick breads. It is tangy in flavour and often needs sugar to balance it out. Some enjoy it simply raw and dipped in sugar.
Recipe: Rhubarb BBQ Sauce

Sugar Snap Peas

Buying: Look for smooth, bright green and glossy pods. The stem end should be bright green, not brown or wilted.
Storing: Best eaten ASAP, but they can be stored for several days, bagged in plastic, in the refrigerator’s vegetable crisper.
Cooking: We love peas raw right from the pod, but if you do want to cook be weary of overcooking. Blanch in boiling water for 2-3 minutes or saute gently in butter for the same amount of time.
Recipe: Curried Potato Salad with Peas and Cilantro

Asparagus

Buying: Look for straight, crisp spears with green or purple tips with tight heads. It’s freshness, not size, that’s important.
Storing
: Asparagus is best eaten right away, but can be refrigerated for two or three days. Stand the spears straight up in a jug of water. Alternatively, you can blanch and freeze in small bundles to use when needed. 
Cooking
: Wash in cold running water to remove sand or grit. Then snap off and discard tough, woody ends. Roast or grill on high heat, or shave/chop to eat raw. 
Recipe
: Shaved Asparagus Salad with Chili Lime Dressing 

Green Garlic

Buying: Look for stalks that are fully green and fresh-looking, not wilted. Yellowing leaves signal the plant is inching toward the bulb stage
Storing: Green garlic can be store in the fridge where it will keep for 5-7 days. Wrap in a damp paper towel and place it in a plastic bag; or stick the green garlic in a tall glass with some water in the bottom.
Cooking: treat green garlic like you would a small leek: trim off the very bottom of the bulb and use all of the tender white and light green parts. The dark green leaves can be saved for stock or as a flavour addition when you’re braising or simmering a stew.
RecipeSpaghetti with Green Garlic

Radishes

Buying: The freshest radishes are those sold in bunches with tops attached. Look for a firm, brightly colored root and healthy leaves.
Storing: For bunched radishes, remove the leaves, wrap in plastic and refrigerate. If your radishes look blemished and sad, immerse in ice water for an hour or two before serving.
Cooking: Radishes have a peppery taste and are often consumed raw with other vegetables with a creamy based dip or with fresh butter and a sprinkle of salt. When roasted their spice mellows and their natural sweetness comes out.
Recipe: Cucumber Radish Avocado Gazpacho