Hello, spring! This season brings fresh produce — often at a bargain price. You can brighten your plates and your palate — while getting a dose of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Use the following tips from our registered dietitians to pick the cream of the crop. You’ll also learn how to store and prepare the spring bounty.
- Choose plump artichoke heads with tightly closed leaves. They should feel heavy for their size. Pull back one leaf to check for black blemishes.
- Keep artichokes dry to prevent mold growth. Refrigerate them in a plastic bag for up to one week. Or cook and freeze them for later use.
- Steam, bake or boil. You can also grill artichokes after cooking them with other methods. Whole artichokes are a fun addition to a meal. Peel each petal and enjoy the white base by pulling it through your front teeth. When you see a fuzzy part, this is hiding the heart — a real treat.
- Choose odorless asparagus stalks with dry, tight tips. Thin stalks are more tender than thick ones. Limp or wilted stalks are past their prime.
- Store asparagus in the refrigerator. Wrap the stalk ends in wet paper towels and keep them in a plastic bag, or store them upright in a pitcher of water.
- Grill, broil, bake or steam. Asparagus can also be added to soups, stews and casseroles. You may even like them raw.
- Choose avocados with green to black skin and no soft spots. They should be firm but will yield to gentle pressure when ripe.
- Store unripe avocados in a paper bag on the kitchen counter. Refrigerate ripe avocados for two to three days.
- Guacamole is a classic way to eat avocados. But you can also add slices or dices to sandwiches, wraps and salads. Or try mashing them into a delicious, colorful sandwich spread.
- Choose loosely formed heads with fresh-looking leaves. Avoid brown, wilting edges.
- Rinse and dry lettuce thoroughly. Refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to one week.
- Experiment with different lettuces in salads. Add lettuce to sandwiches and wraps, or use lettuce as the wrap for rice and beans or other fillings.
- Choose slightly firm, heavy mangos with a sweet aroma. Avoid fruit with sap on the skin.
- Store mangos at room temperature for one to two days. Refrigerate mangos that you have peeled or chopped.
- Peel and eat, chop and make into fruit salsa, blend into a smoothie, or bake or make into a sorbet.
- Choose onions that feel heavy for their size. They should be firm and dry with bright, smooth outer skin.
- Onions will keep for weeks in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place. Refrigerate cut onions in a tightly sealed container for use within two to three days.
- Onions are versatile. They are part of the base of flavor in many soups and stews. Caramelized onions are great on almost any meat or protein-rich food.
- Choose pineapples with dark green leaves that feel heavy for their size. Avoid fruit with soft or dark spots and dry-looking leaves.
- Keep whole pineapple on the counter. Refrigerate cut pineapple for two to three days.
- Pineapple is delicious with no preparation — simply peel, core and eat. Try grilling pineapple for a new twist. Or blend the fruit into a tropical drink.
- Choose shiny, firm strawberries with a bright red color. Avoid shriveled, mushy, molding or leaky berries
- Don’t wash strawberries until you’re ready to eat them. Store them in the refrigerator for one to three days.
- Enjoy as is! Add strawberries to desserts instead of sugar for sweetness and nutritional benefits. Slice them onto toast instead of jam.
Think about ways to combine these spring fruits and vegetables. For example, toss together sliced strawberries, spring lettuces and red onion. Drizzle with raspberry vinaigrette and sprinkle with cashews.