The Local Harvest: Early Spring Veggies

The street trees of NYC are in full bloom, and New Yorkers are shedding their winter coats… Spring is arriving, and with the warmer weather comes the arrival of the first new foods of this growing season. What’s seasonal for NYC this early in the spring? Here’s a quick guide to April’s local harvest:

Fiddleheads: Steam, broil, roast or fry these exotic-looking fern fronds. Served with lemon, butter, hollondaise, or mayonnaise they’re delicious; though they’re fun enough to eat without extra flavoring as well. These guys are only in season for a few weeks, so be sure to grab ’em when you see them. Fiddleheads can be pickled or frozen to keep for other times of the year.

Morels: Cultivated mushrooms are grown locally to NYC year-round, but for wild mushrooms the harvest season starts in April. This is certainly true of morels (nutty-flavored, lesser-known fungi that can be delicious fried or sautéed in butter). Morels soak up water easily, so in order to preserve their full flavor, it’s best to clean them with a brush rather than with a rinse or soak.

Nettles: The young stinging nettle plant packs a vitamin-rich punch with a flavor similar to spinach when cooked. Nettle can be treated very much like spinach too; for pasta aficionados, it’s a good addition to a ravioli or ricotta filling, or can be added as an ingredient within homemade pasta noodles themselves. The nettle’s sting grows worse later in the season, but is still powerful enough in young plants to irritate the skin (soaking or cooking eliminates the stinging chemicals).

Parsnips: This root vegetable has a longer harvest season in late autumn, but it makes a brief appearance on the local scene in April and May. The flavor is sweet (often compared to carrots) and the texture is soft; they can be eaten raw, roasted, or steamed to a potato-like consistency. Go with the small or medium-sized vegetables when purchasing; larger parsnips will have a hard, bitter core that will need to be trimmed out.

Pea Greens: The leaves of the pea plant’s vine are short-lived once harvested; they’ll only last a day or two, so eat fast… Giving them a quick sautée can make for a nice green addition to your spring dishes.

Ready to try these fun local foods? Check your nearest farmer’s market or food coop (or even some larger supermarkets that carry local produce) and see if you can find these guys before their brief appearance in the local food scene ends!

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