Nutrition-wise blog

How to pick spring's freshest produce

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. May 9, 2012

Sprouting seeds and flowering fruit trees are signs of spring. With spring comes fresh produce. Not only fresh, but a bargain in most cases too. Brighten your plates and your palate — while getting a dose of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Here are few fruits and vegetables to look for at your local market.

Asparagus

  • Choose odorless asparagus stalks with dry, tight tips. Thin stalks are more tender. Limp or wilted stalks are past their prime.
  • Store in the refrigerator. Either wrap the ends of the stalks in wet paper towels and keep in a plastic bag or store upright in a pitcher of water.
  • Grill, broil, bake or steam. Can also be added to soups, stews and casseroles. You may even like them raw.

Artichokes

  • Choose plump artichoke heads with tightly closed leaves. They should feel heavy for size.  Pull back one leaf to check heart for black blemishes.
  • Keep artichokes dry to prevent mold growth. Refrigerate in a plastic bag up to one week. If unable to eat within that week, cook and freeze for later use.
  • Steam, bake or boil (or grill precooked artichokes). Whole artichokes are a fun addition to a meal. Peel each petal and enjoy the white base by pulling through your front teeth. When you see a fuzzy part, this is hiding the heart — a real treat. Canned or frozen artichokes are wonderful additions to pasta dishes or dips.

Avocados

  • Choose avocados with green to black skin and no soft spots. They should be firm but yield to gentle pressure when ripe.
  • Store unripe avocados in a paper bag on the kitchen counter. Refrigerate ripe avocados for 2-3 days.
  • Slice and add to a sandwich or wrap. Mash and use as a spread for a sandwich. Dice and add to salads. And of course, use for the classic guacamole.

Lettuces

  • Choose loosely formed head with fresh-looking leaves. Avoid brown, wilting edges.
  • Rinse and dry lettuce thoroughly with paper towels. Refrigerate in plastic bag for use within 1 week.
  • Experiment with different lettuces as salads. Add to sandwiches and wraps, or use as the wrap for rice and beans, or other fillings.

Onions

  • Choose onions that feel heavy for their size. They should be firm and dry with bright, smooth outer skin.
  • Onions will keep for weeks in a cool, dark, well ventilated place.
    Refrigerate cut onions in a tightly sealed container for use within 2-3 days.
  • Onions are versatile. They are part of the base of flavor in many soups and stews. Eat them raw on salads, baked in casseroles or pizzas. Caramelized onions are great on almost any meat or protein-rich food.

Strawberries

  • Choose shiny, firm strawberries with a bright red color. Avoid shriveled, mushy, molding, or leaky berries
  • Do not wash strawberries until ready to eat. Store in refrigerator for 1-3 days.
  • Enjoy as is. Add to desserts instead of sugar for sweetness and nutritional benefits. Slice and use on toast or a muffin instead of jam.

Mangos

  • Choose slightly firm, heavy mangos with sweet aroma. Avoid fruit with sap on skin.
  • Store mangos at room temperature 1-2 days. Refrigerate mangos that you have peeled or chopped.
  • Peel and eat, chop and make into fruit salsa, blend into a smoothie, or bake or make into a sorbet.

Pineapples

  • Choose pineapples with dark green leaves that feel heavy for their size. Avoid fruit with soft or dark spots and dry-looking leaves.
  • Keep whole pineapple on the counter, or refrigerate cut pineapple for 2 -3 days.
  • Peel and core. Delicious as is. Grill for a new twist. Blend in a tropical drink.

What are your favorite spring fruits and vegetables? How do you eat them? Simply and deliciously as is? Or do you grill, roast or mix into a salad? What creative combinations do you put together? Please share.

To the freshness of the season,

Katherine

3 Comments Posted

May. 09, 2012