Spring’s Secret: Cheap Seasonal Produce

  • Celebrating Spring

    Produce is at its freshest and cheapest when it’s in season, and springtime means that a number of crisp vegetables and luscious fruits are bountiful following the winter frost. When you see some of these items at farmers markets and grocery stores, you’ll know you’re headed for warmer weather, and their prices will be more within your reach. Photo Credit: simonsmith001
    Green Spring Garlic
  • Green Spring Garlic

    Spring garlic looks a bit like leeks, but instead of having a gentle, oniony scent, it carries a mild flavor. It’s actually garlic that’s harvested before the whole head develops, according to produce specialists at Melissa’s, the top distributor of specialty fruits and vegetables in the U.S. Peak season price: 49 cents per bunch Off-peak price: 99 cents per bunch Photo Credit: Summer Tomato
    Spring Onions
  • Spring Onions

    Spring onions are like green onions, but their flavor is a bit stronger and they have a more defined bulb at the base. Lowfatlifestyle.com suggests sautéing them with other spring vegetables to add a bit of a bite. Peak season price: 89 cents per pound Off-peak price: $1.29 per pound Photo Credit: Villain Media
    Field-Grown Rhubarb
  • Field-Grown Rhubarb

    Field-grown rhubarb, as opposed to the hothouse variety, is in season in the spring, and they’re tart but flavorful fruits. Yes, they’re considered fruits even though they look like pink celery. If you’re planning to stew them or use them in a pie or crisp for the first time, remember to remove the leaves. The stalks may make a delicious treat, but the leaves are toxic. Peak season price: $5.99 per pound Off-peak price: $6.99 per pound Photo Credit: garry knight
    Snow Pea Leaves
  • Snow Pea Leaves

    Chinese restaurants often serve this tender-leaved, thin-stemmed vegetable stir fried in garlic and oil. But don’t be fooled, they may look a bit like spinach and have a texture somewhat like watercress, but these greens are much more mild and fragrant than those two. Peak season price: $4.29 per pound Off-peak price: $4.99 per pound Photo Credit: highlimitzz
    Zucchini
  • Zucchini

    Whether you’re having it on pizza or pasta, making a sweet and dense bread or preparing it stewed, sliced or fried, zucchini is freshest in the springtime. Peak season price: 99 cents per pound Off-peak price: $1.99 per pound Photo Credit: Alex Gee
    Asparagus
  • Asparagus

    When they’re overcooked, asparagus spears can turn mushy and yellow, so you’ll want to keep them on the crisper side by not heating them much after they turn a bright green. If you’re serving them cold, you’ll have to cool them quickly after you cook them to keep them from turning yellow. You can chill them by placing them in a bowl of ice water, according to startcooking.com. Peak season price: $2.69 per pound Off-peak price: $3.99 per pound Photo Credit: Muffet http://www.flickr.com/photos/calliope/
    White Asparagus
  • White Asparagus

    White asparagus has a tougher peel than its green counterpart, but they’re easy to snap, notes Saveur magazine. So you may want to peel them by laying them flat on your countertop. The plus to these is that you don’t have to worry about them turning a dull green, meaning you can make them as tender as you’d like, notes The New York Times. Peak season price: $4.99 per pound Off-peak price: $5.99 per pound Photo Credit: dizznbonn
    Wax Beans
  • Wax Beans

    Related to the green bean, these stringless beans come in yellow and purple, and the purple ones turn green once they’re cooked, which could make them a fun and fascinating option for kids who hate veggies. Peak season price: $3.99 per pound Off-peak price: $4.99 per pound Photo Credit: kthread
    French Beans
  • French Beans

    French beans are a bit like green beans, but are smaller and more velvety, meaty and crispy. Along with using common green bean preparations, Melissa’s also recommends serving them with goat cheese. Here’s a recipe that sounds delicious. Peak season price: $4.99 per pound Off-peak price: $5.99 per pound Photo Credit: Girl Interrupted Eating
    Fiddlehead Fern
  • Fiddlehead Fern

    This funny-looking fern is considered a spring delicacy described as a “cross between asparagus, green bean and mushroom.”  They can be prepared with intense and nutty flavored morel mushrooms (which we’ll talk about later) for a fragrant ragout. Peak season price: $6.99 per pound Off-peak price: $7.99 per pound Photo Credit: Special*Dark
    Morel Mushrooms
  • Morel Mushrooms

    More widely available in their dried form, morel mushrooms are a favorite among mushroom lovers for their deep flavor and amazing fragrance. Peak season price: $12.99 per half-pound Off-peak price: $14.99 per half-pound Photo Credit: rbaldus
    Pixie Tangerines
  • Pixie Tangerines

    The juiciest of these seedless, low-acidity pixies have a sweet, clean fragrance, Melissa’s says. And they can be stored in your fridge for up to two weeks. Peak season price: $2.99 per pound Off-peak price: $3.99 per pound Photo Credit: jronaldlee
    Artichokes
  • Artichokes

    Related to the sunflower, artichokes are actually immature flower buds. And they’re not just good in cheesy spinach artichoke dips and marinated and tossed into salads. You can simply steam, boil or grill them. If they come with long stems, you can eat those as well. Just peel off the fibrous outer layer. The baby variety of artichokes are more tender and have a richer flavor, Melissa’s says. Peak season price for medium-sized artichokes: $1.49 each Off-peak price: $2.99 Peak season price for baby artichokes: $5.99 per pound Off-peak price: $6.99 per pound Photo Credit: puliarf
    Red Beets
  • Red Beets

    Often compared to spinach for their health benefits, beets are underrated root vegetables. Roasted, broiled, tips sautéed, these are certainly sweet superfoods. Peak season price: $1.99 per pound Off-peak price: $2.49 per pound Photo Credit: sashafatcat
    Gold Beets
  • Gold Beets

    Gold beets come smaller and milder, but even sweeter than their deeper-colored cousins. Melissa’s suggests steaming, sautéing or pickling these beets, and they can make a great addition to soups and salads. Peak season price: $2.99 per pound Off-peak price: $3.99 per pound Photo Credit: jbcurio
    English Peas 
  • English Peas 

    Lima bean haters have another option if they’re looking for a good, green source of vegetable protein, according to specialtyproduce.com. And while the peak season for English peas is the spring, they’re available year-round. Price: $2.99 per pound Photo Credit: whitneyinchicago
    Fava Beans
  • Fava Beans

    Fava beans, which are available in their dried form year-round, are also known as broad beans or horse beans. The purple or brown beans can be eaten in or out of their green pods, but they may be less bitter without them, Melissa’s says. To find recipes for these spring produce items, check out Melissas.com. Price: $2.49 per pound Photo Credit: marcelo trasel
    What About Organics?
  • What About Organics?

    Organic produce can be expensive, but organic versions of some fruits and vegetables might be better than their traditional versions. To find out more, read MainStreet’s story, When Not to Buy Organic. Photo Credit: Adam E. Cole
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