Don’t get us wrong, after this long New England winter, we're definitely ready for longer days and warmer temps. But our favorite part of spring? The re-opening of local farmers markets that showcase all of the season’s juicy and crisp produce ripe for fresh, healthy meals.
This guide will help you navigate your neighborhood market and showcase some new staples of your springtime menu. As an added bonus, these top choices are from a study done in 2014 that ranked the top 41 “powerhouse fruits and vegetables” based on their ability to reduce chronic disease, so you know they pack a healthy punch.1
Read on to discover some new fruits and veggies that will help you get the most nutritional bang for your buck!
Coming in at number 1 on the list: watercress. Similar in taste to arugula, watercress is a great source of vitamins A and C, potassium, calcium, and iron.
During the spring, watercress is less bitter and has thinner stems than the kind found year-round in the supermarkets, so if you've tried it in an off-season and weren't a fan, spring is a good time to give it another chance! Watercress makes a great garnish for soups or added to a salad or sandwich.
These "weeds" are loaded with lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene, all of which are antioxidant "phytochemicals" that are proven to improve eye health. They're also rich in vitamins A, K, and E, calcium, iron, and fiber, making them a great all-around health food! What's even more alluring is each two-cup serving only contains 50 calories.
These greens have a bitter, tangy flavor and are commonly found in mixed salad greens. They make a great addition to soups and stews, and can also be steeped in hot water for 10 minutes to make a delicious cup of herbal tea.
This peppery green, also known as rocket, is packed with calcium and potassium, two important electrolytes that help with hydration and muscle function (ever feel twitchy after a sweaty workout session? Electrolytes could be to blame). A serving also contains almost 50% of your daily value of vitamin A.
Arugula pairs well with pretty much everything! Make it the base of a salad, toss it into pasta, stuff it in a pita, or even blend it up to make a flavorful dip. Our favorite way to enjoy arugula: on top of pizza.
Ever had a fresh strawberry in the dead of winter? Its entire core was likely white and it probably didn't taste like much. This juicy red fruit may be available year-round, but its peak season is April through June, when it's able to fully ripen and develop those antioxidant-rich red hues and delicious flavor. And with just one cup providing 3.5g of fiber and 100% of your daily vitamin C, these berries are too good to pass up.
Farmers markets are the ideal place for strawberries because local berries are fresher and stuffer less damage in transit than the ones you find in supermarkets. Use strawberries for a touch of added sweetness in your oatmeal, salads, or even in your desserts! Another great option: dice strawberries up with some mango, green onion, and cilantro to make a sweet and tangy relish for grilled fish!
Pair this with the strawberries above and you’ve got a flavor combination that stands the test of time. The best part? Baking rhubarb is the best way to tap into its nutrients, which include fiber, vitamins C and K, and calcium; the gentle, indirect heat softens rhubarb's fibrous outside which otherwise locks in the nutrients.
So, are you thinking what I'm thinking? Strawberry rhubarb pie!
You’re probably thinking that you’ve seen these year-round as well, and you’re right – but radishes are their absolute best in the spring! Low in calories and high in vitamin C, they are a great immune-boost replacement for when your beloved citrus fruit goes out of season.
Usually we think of radishes in salads and slaws: slice them in thin disks or take it a step further and chop them into matchsticks. This cold crunch also goes great on tacos, bliss bowls, and even avocado toast! Ever tried cooked radishes? We recommend roasting them or even adding them to your next pasta dish as a new way to enjoy this powerhouse veggie.
As part of the onion family, these tall green stalks have a slightly sweeter flavor than its cousins. Leeks are great for supporting healthy eyesight with their high amounts of vitamin A, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
Preparing a leek might seem a bit daunting, but it’s easy to get the hang of. Trim off the roots and any coarse parts at the top, then slice the leek in half, lengthwise. Wash under running water, making sure to get in between each leaf to get rid of any trapped dirt. Pat dry, slice as desired, and your leeks are ready to go for your next recipe. Try them in soups and bisques, a quiche, or on a flatbread!
With this guide you are now armed and ready to tackle the farmers market – and hopefully venture away from what you normally buy and try something new! Whether you’re a farmers market newbie or a seasoned visitor there is always new produce to try and new vendors to visits. Remember to make the most of your visit (and contribute to sustainable food systems by supporting local farms) by eating with the seasons and stocking up on these powerhouse fruits and veggies.
References: Di Noia, Jennifer. Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach. Prev Chronic Dis. 2014 June 5;11:E95.
US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2016. Nutrient Data Laboratory. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28 (Slightly revised). Version Current: May 2016. http://www.ars.usda.gov/nea/bhnrc/mafcl
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