Everything has a season

Locally grown produce and meats make spring cuisine even tastier.

As Pete Seeger’s song so poignantly says, “To everything, turn, turn, turn. There is a season.” Spring is a season of great relief and anticipation. Weary of winter, dark days and nights, and a somber-looking landscape, we know better things are coming when the first crocuses and daffodils defy the lingering cold by poking their colorful heads through a still barren earth.

Our attitude changes, too, when daylight saving time kicks in and more activity moves outdoors. For me, that means bringing out the grill, picking the first new herbs from my garden, and changing my cooking habits from heavy and hearty, to light and delicate.

For a cook, each season is a temporal time to capture and enjoy the flavors of particular foods. In spring, those treats include ramps, spinach, lettuce, rhubarb, asparagus, mint, parsley, spring peas, artichokes and sorrel.

I like to support my local farmers’ market as well as the many independent markets in the area that carry seasonal vegetables, fruits, meats, fish and dairy items. Locally sourced foods get my mind whirling with lots of ideas on how to utilize them.

I might do something different with the chubby asparagus spears that I spot—perhaps coating them in sesame seeds and roasting them for a new taste. Or those Irish green spring peas look like they would be delicious as a delicate soup flavored with fresh mint.

Sorrel anyone? This lemon-flavored herb whose leaves resemble spinach is used to make sorrel soup, but I love to add the leaves raw to a mixed green salad. Those bunches of beets conceal gorgeous hues of wine red and orange beneath their earthy-looking skin.  I imagine a salad of them with juicy orange segments and feta cheese, and add that to my mental list of things to make.

Rhubarb is so under-appreciated, in my opinion. When I harvest it from my garden, I already have it earmarked as an ingredient for muffins, tea breads and an open-face galette. It usually gets the most attention as the understudy of a strawberry rhubarb pie, but its flavor shines on its own as a sauce for vanilla ice cream or to accompany an otherwise ho-hum pork chop, transforming its taste into something extraordinary.

Take advantage of what spring has to offer. Don’t let the season pass you by without capturing its unique flavors—for everything has a season.

Recipes include:

Where to buy locally grown produce

Eating fruits and vegetables that are grown a stone’s throw away is getting easier every day, every season. Among the options are farmers’ markets held year-round throughout the state (www.nheatlocal.org, a page on the N.H. Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food website, www.agriculture.nh.gov). Local produce is also available in season through community supported agriculture (CSA) farms in New Hampshire www.agriculture.nh.gov/publications), and at stores including the Concord Cooperative Market in Concord and New London; the Coop Food Stores in Hanover and Lebanon; Hannaford; Lull Farm in Hollis; Tendercrop Farm in Dover; The Fresh Market in Portsmouth and Bedford; and Whole Foods Market in Nashua, with locations soon to open in Bedford and Portsmouth.

Tara Surette, produce manager at Tendercrop Farm in Dover, brings out chard just harvested at the farm.
Categories: Food & Recipes