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Changing Seasons Means Changing Ingredients

Sydney Schwarz

Rhubarb peeking up from new soil; photo by Nic McPhee

Rhubarb peeking up from new soil; photo by Nic McPhee

The seasonal shift from winter to spring is one of the more special times to eat. Although we might find ourselves growing tired of root veggies, the first appearances of rhubarb, ramps, strawberries and more has us tinkering with our sweet potato and kale recipes to incorporate new menu items. Suddenly, we don’t dread our trips to the market, knowing everything is about to change.

Whether you spent your winter bulking up to stay warm or you invented new ways to eat winter greens in every meal, it’s safe to say spring is a welcome shift for our diets and our palates. Flex your culinary muscles with quick-pickled rhubarb and spring onions that will heighten the flavor of your salads and frittatas, dip watermelon and daikon radishes in salty butter for a very-French afternoon snack, or experiment with new ways to eat storage crops by shredding cabbage and carrots into ROYGBIV salad that’s so Instagram-able, even food photo haters will double tap it.

But what we’re most excited about this spring are the herbs! Dried herbs and spices are great in a pinch but nothing packs a punch quite like fresh herbs. They heighten the flavor of any dish and require no preparation aside from a quick wash. Herbs make spring eating simple — you can stop slaving at the stove and make entree salads, rotating different herbs to alter the flavor of each dish. Dill will give you a tangy bite and remind you of your grandma’s chicken soup while cilantro, the love-it-or-leave-it herb of choice, transports you to a beach in Mexico where the fare is as light and easy as the lifestyle.

Spring harvest is an equally as special time to be a farmer. Freezing winters spent crop planning and seeding, tinkering with new varieties of lettuces, tomatoes, and squash, pay off as the ground thaws and sights of green peak out through the soil. Suddenly farmers are exponentially busier in their fields—but it’s a welcome shift. There’s a reason farmers choose a life outdoors. It’s an opportunity to work with your hands and connect with the earth in a meaningful way.

As consumers, we only connect with the finished product and often forget growing produce requires attention and care we associate more with parenting than farming. Toward winter’s end, farmers start their seeds in greenhouses so they will be ready for transfer come spring. Once in the ground, each variety of produce needs a different level of sun and water. Harvest times and methods vary, as well. Each day brings a new challenge—exciting as it may be—that takes a farmer out of their house before dawn and keeps them out of the home until dinner. Depending on the set up, some farmers even wake in the middle of the night to turn manual irrigation systems on and off.

As we pass through grocery aisles and consider which spring ingredients we’ll be bringing home to nurture our families, we can feel good about our choices knowing these greens (and yellows, reds, and blues) are a true labor of our farmer’s love.