April: coming into season

PCC Taste | April 2013

When the first fruits and vegetables of the season are bold enough to blossom or poke their heads from the earth, you know it's time to emerge from hibernation and welcome spring!

asparagus

Organic asparagus

Inaba Farms, Wapato, Wash.

Asparagus is a perennial plant, like rhubarb, and has a delicate flavor. It is exceptionally nutrient-dense and its high folate content is great for pregnant women and is said to help with cognitive function in older adults.

Buy it: Look for firm, bright green stalks. Asparagus is a highly perishable vegetable; wrap stems in a damp paper towel, refrigerate immediately and use within two or three days.

Try it: Snap off the stem ends where they break naturally, or trim them with a knife. Pair asparagus with olive oil, butter, lemon, garlic or Parmesan, then roast, stir-fry, grill or steam briefly. Or try PCC Chef Lynne Vea's First-of-the-season Organic Asparagus with Penne Pasta, Tuscan Style.

strawberries

Organic strawberries

Driscoll's, Watsonville, Calif.

Each year, conventionally grown strawberries tend to land on the "Dirty Dozen" list of produce that contain the most pesticide residue, so buying organic is extremely important. These sweet and fragrant fruits are loaded with vitamin C, manganese and phytonutrients.

Buy it: Select deep red berries, free of mold. Strawberries do not continue to ripen once picked and are highly perishable, so store unwashed berries in the refrigerator for only a day or two, or wash, pat dry and freeze immediately.

Try it: Enjoy a Strawberry and Spinach Salad, or for dessert, combine strawberries with a natural sweetener and balsamic vinegar and let sit for 15 minutes, or warm briefly and serve over ice cream.

rhubarb

Organic rhubarb

Several Northwest growers

The perennial rhubarb plant has red, edible stalks, with large, dramatic leaves that are poisonous. Rhubarb is wonderfully tart, so it needs some sugar to offset its sharpness, but it needn't be relegated to pies. It combines well with raspberries or cherries for sweet sauces, but also melds beautifully with oranges or ginger in savory compotes and chutneys.

Buy it: Select crisp, red stalks, trim off ends and leaves and store in the produce bin in a ventilated bag for up to two weeks. Or freeze on cookie sheets and then store in freezer bags for up to 6 months.

Try it: Savor Sesame-roasted Halibut with Sweet and Spicy Rhubarb Sauce.

More about: asparagus, Inaba Farms, produce, rhubarb, spring, strawberries

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