It’s April, and the year’s most pleasant season is upon us. The birds are chirping, the sun is out, and the weather is perfect. Not to mention, your favorite seasonal produce is making its way back to your kitchen table.
Though, sometimes, it can be hard to choose the best produce, know how to cook it, or find a good recipe. Don’t worry–we’ve got you covered. Here are some tips for bringing a little bit of spring to your table.
Tips for the Grocery Store: The redder the better. However, color isn’t everything–strawberries’ red hue deepens even after they’ve been picked, whereas their sweetness plateaus. They should be firm and bruise-free. While bigger strawberries may look impressive, don’t be fooled; medium to small berries tend to taste better. Likewise, a perfect shape doesn’t imply a perfect taste. And most importantly, smell your berries; fragrance is the best indicator of taste. Additionally, with strawberries, it’s important to opt for organic. Strawberries are one of the Dirty Dozen, a group of fruits and vegetables that have tested positive for alarmingly high concentrations of pesticides
Tips for the Kitchen: Hull your strawberries to waste less fruit.
Why We Love Them: Besides being delicious, strawberries are incredibly nutritious. At just 50 calories per cup, they’re packed with vitamin C, high in manganese, and a good source of dietary fiber.
Try This Recipe: Strawberry-Avocado Salsa
Tips for the Grocery Store: It’s all about the green. Fading color is a bad sign when it comes to asparagus–it means the vegetable is past its peak. The asparagus should be firm with closed spears, and a purple tip is all the better. There’s considerable variation when it comes to the diameter, but size isn’t an indication of quality, or lack thereof.
Tips for the Kitchen: Steam it using a vegetable steamer. By steaming your asparagus, you’ll keep the calorie content low, and by using a steamer, they’ll retain the soluble vitamins and minerals that often leach out upon direct contact with the source of the steam (i.e. water).
Why We Love Them: They’re only 32 calories per serving, and well worth every one. They provide 5 grams of protein, 73% of daily vitamin C, and 29% of daily vitamin A.
Try This Recipe: Simply Steamed Asparagus
Tips for the Grocery Store: Choose arugula with big, bright, and firm leaves. Steer clear of tears, holes, and yellowing–these imperfections indicate that the leaves are heading downhill. If you can find arugula with the roots attached, opt for those over rootless bunches. They may require a little more prep work, but the roots help maintain freshness.
Tips for the Kitchen: Add arugula to carb-heavy dishes to make them a little lighter.
Why We Love It: This nutritious green is low in calories and high in vitamins. One hundred grams of arugula contains only 25 calories, but is jam packed with vitamins A, C and K.
Link to Recipe: Arugula Salad with Honey-Drizzled Peaches
Tips for the Grocery Store: Because much of this bean’s weight is in its pod, it’s advisable to buy one pound of beans per person. Look for green, mostly smooth pods–bulging pods indicate overripe beans, which will likely be more bitter.
Tips for the Kitchen: Fava beans are double-shelled, so when preparing your beans, first remove the outer pod, blanch the beans, then remove individual shells. Once they’ve been properly prepped, steam and dress with olive oil, lemon, and salt.
Why we love them: One serving (one cup, cooked) of these broad beans equates to a filling and nutritious 170 calories. They’re rich in protein, dietary fiber, and folate.
Link to Recipe: Spiced Fava Bean Soup with Rice and Tomato