A couple of weeks ago I planted a bed of peas. It was pushing the season, to say the least, but I did it anyway. And less than 48 hours later I awoke to a house without power and a yard and garden covered in no less than two inches of slush and snow and ice. Mostly ice. It’s a good thing peas don’t mind a freeze or ten.
Mother Nature is a finicky lass and though April first seems to be the unofficial start to spring in this part of the world there’s no guarantee she won’t pummel us again.
Yet, I remain optimistic. The sun is shining more days than not and the earliest spring plants have been seen shooting up from the cold, brown ground. The grass is beginning to green and I know sooner or later the growing season simply has to make an appearance again.
In the meantime we continue to dine on whatever is left of what we put by last season, taking careful stock of what exactly is left with every new jar we open. There’s not much. And we dream, of fresh picked, newly harvested. Of another season of preserving because it’s those last jars that truly get us by when fresh, local food is so close to being available we can taste it.
And while we’re dreaming and waiting we are a bit envious. Okay, more than a bit envious, because in other parts of the world — parts not even very far from our own little corner — there is fresh food in abundance already. If you’re in one of those parts here’s what you should be looking for at the market:
- Greens — Spinach and lettuce and kale and chard galore!
- Radishes — Spice things up by looking for colors other than the traditional reds and pinks. Chinese Green Luobo, for instance, are a bright green variety.
- Brassicas — Broccoli, Cabbages and Cauliflowers make great side dishes and also lend themselves well to center stage, making a hearty late spring meal when roasted or sauteed in a little oil and garlic.
- Asparagus — Look for thin, tender shoots.
- Rhubarb — Great raw, cooked, in pies and even makes a lovely jam.
- Herbs — Chives are some of the first herbs to pop up in spring gardens. Look for Parsley, Chervil and even Sage and Thyme to follow shortly thereafter.
- Peas — Both pod and sugar-snap are hardy and among the first producers of the season.
- Onions — Especially green, but also be on the lookout for bunching and short day varieties in the south.
Of course, there are always preserves and storable produce — apples, potatoes, winter squashes and the like — to lend flavor and variety to the menu. And those items that are ‘on the hoof’ — meats and dairy products — never go out of season. Pair some with a side or two of the above in-season veggies and a baguette from your local baker and you’ll have a meal worth sitting down and thoroughly enjoying!
Until next month, Happy Shopping!