We made it through the winter, and now it’s finally starting to feel like spring! From a nutritionist and food nerd standpoint, this is my favorite time of the year – all the baby veggies are making their presence known – and the options in produce more than triple. A lot of us want to eat more vegetables because we know they are good for us – but there are often factors that prevent us from doing so. Here is a short spring vegetable cheat-sheet:

  1. Determine what the vegetable is. I admit it, even as a nutritionist, I see some vegetables, and think – what the heck is that? If you don’t know what it is, it’s hard to imagine how to cook it, let alone why you would want to. Today we will take a look at several spring vegetables in their raw form: asparagus, kale, Swiss chard, snap peas, artichokes, and beets.
  2. Once you know what it is, you can figure out how long its shelf life is, or how long you have before you have to discard it. Most water-based vegetables – like the kale, swiss chard, asparagus, and snap peas – have a 3-5 day shelf life in the fridge. Root vegetables, like beets, can last a couple of weeks before getting soft (a sign that they are on their way out).
  3. Decide how you want to cook it- most of these vegetables can be cooked one of these ways: blanched, steamed, sautéed, roasted OR eat them raw (like kale, snap peas, and beets).
  4. The great thing about these foods is that they don’t need many added ingredients to taste good. A little olive oil, lemon juice, sprinkle of pepper, and a dash of salt, and you are pretty good to go. You can also add these vegetables to food you already cook- like soups, roasts, and salads.
  5. Once you have cooked your vegetables – how do you store them? Most of these vegetables can be easily stored in zip-lock bags or tupperware in the freezer for months – without losing their flavor or nutritional value.
  6. Lastly, its great to know why you should eat these vegetables. Each vegetable has its own “super powers” –  a unique blend of nutrients that consist of vitamins and minerals that our body needs to feel its best.

Below is a list of some common spring vegetables and their “super powers:”

ARTICHOKES

A serving of this vegetable provides ¼ of average adults daily fiber needs, vitamin C, potassium, folic acid, magnesium and high levels of antioxidants, which helps to lower cholesterol.

Cook them to eat them.

ASPARAGUS

High in fiber, folate and vitamins A, C, and K that help brain functionality, antioxidants that help aging process, and glutathione which helps break down carcinogens (bad guys) in your body.

Cook it up!

BEETS

Phytonutrients give this vegetable their gorgeous color and can also help ward off cancer. It’s high in vitamin C, which is good for immune system, and high in fiber and potassium.

Need an exercise boost? These babies are great for increasing stamina. Eat the root raw or cooked. Greens should be cooked.

KALE

Low in calories, high in vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, C, and K, folate, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and zinc. It’s high in fiber, which helps manage blood sugar, and folate which is needed for brain development.

Eat raw or cooked.

SNAP PEAS

These sweet vegetables help your bones and aid wound healing because they have vitamin K, B6, and folate. They are also high in vitamin C – great for immune system!

Eat raw or cooked.

RECIPES

Quick Roasted Beets

What you need:

  • 4 beets, peeled and cut into ¾ inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 pinch salt

What you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Toss the beets, olive oil, and thyme in a bowl until beets are coated, and arrange pieces of beet on baking sheet so that they don’t touch. Sprinkle the beets with sea salt.
  3. Roast in the preheated oven until the beets are tender, 10 to 20 minutes. A fork inserted into a beet cube should come out easily.
Sauteed Kale

What you need:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 2 bunches of kale, rinsed and dried, ribs and stems removed, leaves thinly sliced crosswise (can sub Swiss chard or beet greens)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

What you do:

  1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the garlic and chili flakes and sauté for two minutes, until the garlic just begins to brown.
  2. Add the kale in batches and toss to coat with oil. When all of the kale is added to the pan, cover and sauté for 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the lid, season with salt and pepper, and continue cooking for three minutes, or until the moisture has mostly evaporated.
  4. Serve immediately OR wait until it cools and freeze.

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