spring into a new season of healthy ingredients

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After a winter of root vegetables, hearty greens, broths and stews, the spring season and all its bountiful produce comes as a welcome sight for very sore eyes. For many of us, the new season offers up an opportunity to try out new ingredients, recipes and even if you are inclined, a new diet.

Another great benefit of the spring season is locally sourced produce, learning what is in season where you live. Visiting your local Farmers Market will introduce you to both new ingredients, textures and flavours. Not only will the food be super fresh (usually picked within 24 hours) but you will be supporting your local community. So what should we be looking out for in our farm shops, markets and on our plates this spring?

Spring brings with it an abundance of green vegetables which are low in fat, low in calories but high in protein and dietary fibre, with the likes of asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, savoy cabbage, spinach, spring onion and watercress taking centre stage. As a fantastic accompaniment to a spring salad or co-starring alongside a selected cut of meat, these vegetables will be at their most tender at this stage of the year.

We’ve hand-picked some spring season produce along with what to look out for and how to use them:

Artichokes: Their main harvest takes place in the spring when the largest thistles are available. Look for artichokes with tight, compact leaves and fresh-cut stem ends. Artichokes can be used for soups but are perfect in pasta dishes and citrus dips.

Asparagus: Harvested from March through June. The younger the shoots the better as these have yet to open out. Asparagus is a great accompaniment to salads and is even better grilled or cooked, wrapped in locally sourced bacon.

Onions: The foundation to all soups, spring is the perfect time for the majority of onion varieties.

Rhubarb: Harvested in April and considered a fruit rather than a vegetable in the US, rhubarb stalks should be firm and and glossy. Without doubt, rhubarb pie or rhubarb crumble are two of the best spring desserts you can make.

New Potatoes: With a thin, wispy skin and a crisp, waxy texture, new potatoes are best from April until early – mid summer. They are also sweeter the regular potatoes because their sugar has not yet converted into starch, and are therefore particularly suited to salads.

Spinach: Although spinach can continue to grow throughout the winter, spring is the best time for the spinach leaves. High in antioxidants, especially when fresh, boiled or steamed, spinach is perfect in fish pie or with a little nutmeg as a leafy accompliment to steak.

Finally, for meat eaters, if you are prepared to wait for May, then spring lamb is ingrained in Britain’s bucolic, culinary history.

Lamb is the only farmed animal in the UK that’s at the mercy of the seasons. The earlier spring months are when British lamb is at its most succulent and its flavour at its most subtle (partly down to their impressive consumption of fresh grass). Althoughlamb is a very adaptable meat, used in curry’s as well as stews and pies, you cannot beat a spring lamb on a Sunday afternoon.

Spring lambs are typically 3 to 5 months old and are at their most tender with lamb aged between 1 and 2 years old (called ‘hoggart’) offering up a much stonger flavour and slightly less tender flesh; anything over 2 years is called mutton, which has much more flavour – but also a tougher flesh that needs slow-cooking to tenderise it.

Filed under Food & Drink.