Chefs, food lovers, gardeners, foragers – it seems the whole food-loving world looks forward with hungry anticipation to the arrival of spring. The first tender green shoots make up for the several previous months spent dreaming up creative ways to cook and eat root vegetables. When spring finally arrives, it’s party time for the plate, and the palate.
In the Northern Hemisphere, spring arrives with a garlicky whiff, as wild garlic of various kinds pushes through the earth, from as early as February and lasting until mid-April. It’s a forager’s dream, and the stuff of many a springtime recipe.
Hot on its heels comes purple sprouting broccoli, which is in season until April. Its vibrant color and forthright flavor make it top of the list for many cooks and chefs. It doesn’t need to be relegated to the sidelines either: this brassica is characterful enough to be the star of the show, as in Tom Parker Bowles’ Purple Sprouting Broccoli with Chillies and Anchovies.
Next up, spring greens, which are around from March until June: these members of the brassica family have a stronger constitution than, say, spinach. They are less watery, too, so they make an excellent cooking ingredient in everything from stir-fried dishes to savory pies, as in this Greek Hortopita from Aglaia Kremezi.
As wonderful and welcome as these green vegetables are, there’s one seasonal green that’s the undisputed king of the vegetable patch: asparagus. The arrival of fresh, local asparagus is cause for celebration – perhaps even a bit of gluttony – among cooks and food lovers, eager to enjoy as many of these green spears as possible in their short season.
The earliest local asparagus is best treated simply, as in Alice Hart’s Asparagus with Brioche Crumbs, or Karen Ansel’s Roasted Asparagus with Walnuts & Orange Zest, Chantal Lascaris’s Asparagus & Coppa Salad, or Karen Morgan’s Shaved Watermelon Radish and Asparagus.
In European countries, there is a panoply of dishes that – literally – say spring: dishes entitled ‘primavera’ in Italy, Spain and Portugal, or ‘printanier’ in France. Also in France, traditional stews such as navarin get a makeover for spring, the usual root vegetables replaced with baby veg and tiny new potatoes, young carrots, baby turnips and spring onions. Try a classic version of spring navarin from Alice B. Toklas.
In Italy, spring is greeted by an outbreak of green-hued risottos, pastas and soups, such as Sue Quinn’s Risotto Primavera, Giuliano Hazan’s Fettucine Primavera, and Alastair Little’s Minestrone Primavera.
In Spain, spring is the time when the paella pan makes its first outing since the previous autumn. Steven Raichlen’s Paella Primavera on the Grill could be the spring dish to make for the year’s first barbecue. Asparagus is a much-loved vegetable in Spain, and a simple Tortilla de Espárragos is a great way to show it off.
The season is upon us, so give spring the welcome it deserves – make its tender green shoots the star of your dinner plate. Try some of these spring-fresh dishes…