Your handy guide to every spring vegetable

Spring is just around the corner, or so I keep telling myself. Which means we have a lot of lively and happy products to look forward to. Below are the spring veggies I can’t wait to buy in full cash when the Farmer’s Market finally returns to town. We’ll cover good-to-know tips (like how to store) and fun facts (for wow your friends at a party) – and also share some of our favorite recipes.

Artichokes

Technically a thistle, an artichoke looks like a pine cone, tangy, jagged and ready to ward off predators. It’s us. To get to the right things (the petals and the heart), you have to put in a lot of work. Vegetable whisperer and author of six seasons Joshua McFadden calls them “a royal pain” – but once you master the technique, it’s like riding a bike. Head here for some easy preparation tips. Plus: after cooking an artichoke, you only need a little more mayo for dipping to have a wonderful dish.

Steamed artichokes with garlic aioli

Roasted Artichoke Leaf Appetizer with Feta and Black Olives (and Cheater’s Aioli)

Slow Cooker Lemon Thyme Steamed Artichokes

Carciofi alla Giudia – Roman-style artichokes

Rocket

Also known as Italian watercress, arugula, and arugula, arugula is famous for its peppery flavor. So if you don’t like bitter greens, don’t throw your hat in this ring. It is wonderful in salads – especially those with rich, fatty components, such as meat, nuts or cheese – but also holds up well when wilted. Stir into bubbling soups at the very end. Mix with hot pasta. Or turn into pesto.

French Lentil and Arugula Salad with Herbed Cashew Cheese

Steak with arugula, lemon and parmesan

Potato Salad with Arugula and Dijon Vinaigrette

Roasted onion salad with arugula and walnut salsa

asparagus

In the 1st century, according to The food encyclopedia, “The Romans tended to overuse asparagus, consider a dinner insignificant unless it included both an asparagus appetizer and a main course.” Pleasant! When buying asparagus, avoid discolored or soft stems. And after bringing them home, try this trick of Ruffing author Abra Berens: “Store in a vase of water in the refrigerator so that the stems continue to pick up water.” Some cooks like break asparagus bottoms, to get rid of fibrous and woody parts – but I prefer to navigate with a knife, to waste as little as possible.

Tagliarini with asparagus and herbs

Nobu Fried Asparagus with Miso Vinaigrette

Asparagus with soft-boiled eggs and breadcrumbs with anchovies

Alice B. Toklas Asparagus in Salt and Pepper Whipped Cream

Carrots

Of course, you can get carrots all year round, but young carrots with bright eyes and bushy tails are a hot weather specialty. (And yes, they’re different from the “baby carrots” you find in supermarkets — they’re actually carrot stubs.) McFadden’s “ideal early carrot is about six inches long,” so it’s “delicate and sweet, but big enough to have developed some depth of flavor.” These are wonderful raw (peeling is not necessary), but also roasted and pureed. If you can save the tops, save them and turn them into pesto or salsa verde.

Carrots roasted with carrot leaf pesto and burrata

Miso Roasted Carrot Soup

Carrot salad with grilled pineapple, avocado and cumin-lime vinaigrette

Turmeric Roasted Carrots with Seeds

English peas

Name something cuter. I’ll wait. Tiny, crisp, fresh English peas are as sweet as sugar – but not to be confused with snow peas (more on those below). They’re lovely enough to eat raw, or you can quickly blanch them in salted water. It is best to shell them and devour them the day you buy them. But if you need a buffer of a day or two, the fridge is the place to be.

Spring Vegetable Panzanella with Poached Eggs

Pilaf rice with crispy chickpeas and cashew nuts

Justin Burdett’s Chilled English Pea Soup with Garlic Cream and Pickled Ramps

Paneer Bhurjee with English Peas

beans

“Fava beans are extremely popular in the Mediterranean and parts of the Middle East, but lesser known in the United States,” McFadden writes in six seasons. These legumes are very similar to lima beans, with a creamy texture and sweet flavor. They’re a little more laborious to prepare than English peas, but worth it: unzip the pod, remove the beans and blanch them in boiling water for 30 seconds; then, drain them, shock them in iced water and peel off the outer membrane. You did it!

Salad of fresh raw peas, asparagus and broad beans with herbs and pecorino

Grilled Zaatar Chicken Wings with Bean and Feta Dip

Spring Bean Soba Noodle Salad

Grilled favas by Ignacio Mattos

Fennel

Fennel oscillates between a late winter and early spring vegetable. It’s just the thing to take to the produce stand when you crave the light, fragrant notes of spring produce, but there’s still snow on the ground. Fennel is valued for its flavor and aroma of anise, as well as for its friendliness. You can cook with both the bulb and the fronds (the leafy herb-like tops that look like dill). Cut the bulb into wedges and roast until caramelized; they’ll get super sweet, while still delivering some of the heat you know and love from peak winter veggies. As for the fronds, staff writer Kelly Vaughan likes to chop them finely and toss them into a seafood soup like this.

One Skillet Farro with Fennel, Tomatoes and Parmesan

Roasted Apple and Fennel Salad with Roasted Hazelnuts and Goat Cheese

Bryant Terry’s Citrus-Garlic-Herb Braised Fennel

Cucumber and fennel salad with Chinese vinaigrette

lettuces

“A bad salad pisses me off,” Berens writes in Ruffing. Yeah! Like it should be. A good salad starts with good produce, which can be any of the ingredients in this guide. But if you’re making a simple lettuce salad, treat yourself to some fresh spring vegetables. Avoid anything that is wilted or mushy. To cool down before serving, you can soak them quickly in ice water. Just be sure to dry them well, otherwise the bandage will not be able to cling.

Spring lettuce with anchovy cream from Carla Lalli Music

BLT salad

Quinoa and Mango Salad with Lemon Ginger Vinaigrette

Eric Korsh Farm Lettuce Salad with Dill Vinaigrette

Radishes

Most radishes go from seed to vegetable within a month. They’re golf ball sized or smaller, but they pack a powerful personality with a juicy bite, and pungent and spicy enough to make your eyes water. Arguably, the best way to enjoy radishes is also the simplest: with butter and salt. Once you graduate beyond that, start having fun with their tops, which are as worthy as any other green and should never be thrown away. That said, if you’re storing radishes in the fridge for a few days, break them apart, which will help them both survive longer.

Tartine with radishes and butter

Radish salad with anchovy sauce

Radish Top Aioli

Radish salad with curry and orange vinaigrette

Ramps

The darling of spring produce or, as McFadden puts it, “a cult vegetable”. Ramps are wild leeks, with pink-hued bulbs and bright green leaves. They are proud members of the allium family, so it goes without saying that they have an onion and garlic flavor. Ramps flavor is often overpowering raw, so cooking is your best bet. For storage in the refrigerator, the tops must be separated. Ramp season is a snap, so when you see them, grab them. And if you really want to hold on, try pickling.

Carbonara ramp

Mashed potatoes and ramp frittata

Grilled chicken with ramps and rhubarb chutney

Georgian khachapuri filled with ramps, green onions, herbs and cheese

Rhubarb

Although rhubarb is usually paired with strawberries for pies and chips, or compotes served with panna cotta, rhubarb is actually a vegetable. Yes, vegetable! Rhubarb is part of the buckwheat family, which also includes plants like Japanese knotweed and sorrel. Rhubarb in its raw form has an extremely tart flavor, which is why it is usually macerated with sugar and lemon juice and served with a juicy sweet berry. It is also one of the first vegetables to appear in the spring, although it also has one of the shortest seasons. If you buy a few packets (which you should), cut the stems into one-inch pieces and freeze them in a single layer; this will allow you to preserve the pink color and the tangy flavor of the rhubarb until the beginning of summer. Just use them within three months, otherwise the vegetable will start to lose its sparkle.

Upside down rhubarb cake

Rye and rhubarb cake

Roasted rhubarb and strawberries

Naughty Rhubarb Scones

Green onions

Scallions, which also go by green onions, are one of my favorite things. Their flavor is spicy but not too spicy, and herbal but not too herbaceous. Plus, they’re easy to prepare. Try charring them whole in a cast iron skillet or on the grill, then toss them into sauces, like salsa verde or grain salads. The white and green parts are excellent in their own way; the former will take longer to tenderize, but only slightly since the stem is so thin.

Spaghetti Pasta with Charred Scallion Sauce

Green Onion Crostatas

Multi-Layer Scallion Pancakes (Taiwanese Thousand-Layer Pancakes)

Sweet Braised Whole Shallots from Molly Stevens

snow peas

Sugar snap peas are a cross between the English pea and the snow pea. As their name suggests, they are sweet, making it a cheerful contrast in ultra-salty dishes. Pair it with anything salty, greasy, or funky, or all of the above. You can thinly slice snow peas on the bias and place them in a salad situation. Or blow them up quickly. I like to brown them in a skillet, deglaze them with soy sauce and crispy chili, and pile them on hot rice.

Creamy Lemon Tortellini with Snow Peas and Soppressata

Radish, snow pea and burrata salad

Oversized Mozzarella Arepas with Spring Vegetables

Grilled Steak Salad with Fish Sauce Dressing