At this time of year lettuce starts to be small and crisp again, peas begin popping up at local market stalls, sprouting broccoli is tender and flavourful, and there are new harvests of all kinds of vegetables.
Can you feel the energy that is just about bursting through the damp and sweetly scented spring soil? It’s no longer just root vegetables and braised stews, our bodies are starting to crave raw, crunchy and fresh foods. To me this time of year is about pulling still tiny carrots from the ground and brushing of the earth that clings to them while I stand in the garden, only a sweater on my shoulders. It is about eating snow peas by the handful at lunchtime, and serving vegetables with no seasoning and almost no preparation simply because they are that good.
So where do you go to find this beautiful, recently sprouted produce and what can you do with it to satiate the craving for all things raw?
Oriental veggies are some of the first to find their way into marketplaces in the spring. In February and March start visiting your local China Town, Asian markets, or other stores that specialize in eastern cuisine.
You’ll find everything from baby bok choy to greens whose names you can’t pronounce. They are fresh, they are crisp, they are flavourful, and they are beautiful! Look for inspiration from these cuisines and throw together stir fries, slice the greens to eat them raw in salads, and use flavourings that originate from that region of the world.
Next start visiting your local farmers markets. Yes it’s true that they produce you find there is often more expensive than the produce you find at the grocery store, but don’t be afraid of looking at multiple stalls. You’ll soon know where to find the best quality for the price. It’s also the first place that local goodies are going to start appearing (shelling peas, longs stalks of rhubarb, and perfectly sweet strawberries.)
By starting to regularly frequent the markets in your neighbourhood you will begin to form relationships with the farmers, get first dibs on the best of the season, and start to recognize what spectacular produce looks like.
You can find markets all over victoria, this is a list of all the most local markets, this is a map of the bigger markets all over BC, and this is the plan for a new covered market opening up in the heart of downtown Victoria!
As for recipes: this is the kind of simple and easy I’m talking about, although I’d use fresh shelling peas if I could get them instead of frozen edamame.
This is an absolutely perfect thing to do with excess broccoli!
And if you want something that combines warming comfort food with the crunch of seasonal veggies try this.
Here’s to spring and all the good things that it brings! Just remember; if you buy it fresh, you will have to cook it less. (plus there are more nutrients, it takes less of your time, and your dishes will have more flavour.)