THE DAYS ARE BECOMING LONGER, and although only the calendar reminds of the onset of spring, the sun is about to begin not only to shine, but also to warm. It’s time to wake up from hibernation and replenish the reserves of vitamins, energy and joy spent by the long winter. We have compiled a list of seasonal products that will help you find energy and spring mood in the coming March.
This vegetable came to Russia from Mediterranean countries and quickly gained popularity. Compared to onions, the taste of leeks is softer and more interesting, the smell is less pronounced, but there are almost the same nutrients: it contains vitamins C, B1 and B2, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. The white-green onion stalks also contain quite a lot of carotene – a natural antioxidant.
Leeks are cold-resistant plants, and young greens appear in early April. Leek leaves are tougher than green onion feathers, so they are usually not eaten raw, but cooked – and there are a million different ways to do this. Soft-tasting onions will decorate an omelet (say, Alsatian – with leek and ham stewed in butter), a variety of soups (including vegetable, chicken or onion), and you can also bake a quiche based on it.
Another early and cold-resistant plant that easily withstands all the vagaries of changeable spring weather. Large chard leaves, dark green with cherry-red cuttings, are pleasing to the eye and are beneficial: beets contain a lot of vitamin C, vitamin K, which is necessary for blood clotting, calcium, which helps to strengthen bones, and iron, which ensures a normal level of hemoglobin in the blood.
Unlike ordinary beets, chard is an early vegetable, its greens appear in April and remain until severe frost. Young leaves taste like a cross between spinach and beets and are great in salads like feta and olive oil. Beets can be stewed and served as a side dish or as a separate dish, added to omelettes and quiche filling , used for dressing soup instead of cabbage; cabbage rolls can be made from large Swiss chard leaves.
Everyone knows about the benefits of citrus fruits from childhood, and do not forget about them in adulthood. Orange is not a fruit, but a whole pharmacy: vitamins A, groups B, C and E, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and much more. It saturates the body with useful substances and improves mood, which is especially valuable in early spring, when there are still few other fresh fruits and vegetables.
Fresh oranges don’t have to be eaten just like that – you can make a salad with yogurt and orange juice, use peeled orange slices as an addition to green leafy salads, or garnish your morning oatmeal with them. If you wish, you can cook something more serious: fragrant orange pie with cinnamon , duck with oranges or traditional English marmalade – liquid jam, where fruits are cooked together with the skin.
Asparagus is now available all year round, but it’s only really good in spring – just another reason to celebrate the changing seasons. This early vegetable is also packed with B vitamins, including folic acid, vitamins C and K, and a host of trace elements. Asparagus also has a very low calorie content, and its only drawback can be considered a rather high price.
You can prepare it in a variety of ways: asparagus is good in green salads with olive oil, in creamy soups (with potatoes or on its own), omelets, pasta and casseroles. Asparagus makes an excellent side dish for fish or chicken – you just need to boil it or bake it on the grill. You can also serve asparagus as an independent dish: boil and season with hollandaise sauce (or just butter) or bake, wrapped in thin prosciutto slices.
In contrast to expensive asparagus, there is a domestic and affordable superfood. The most useful sauerkraut without heat treatment – in the form of a salad with vegetable oil. In this case, we get the maximum vitamins B, K and C contained in cabbage, as well as beneficial lactic acid bacteria. Cabbage is very high in fiber , which is important for gut health.
You can buy sauerkraut or make it yourself – in this case, you can diversify the recipe by adding apples, cranberries, lingonberries and beets, or, for example, red peppers and garlic. You can salt cabbage in Caucasian style, with whole bean pods and pepper, or in German – without carrots, but with cinnamon, cloves and juniper.
The resulting product is pleasant to eat in its pure form and is easy to use in cooking: Russians cook cabbage soup from cabbage, Poles stuff dumplings with it and stew with porcini mushrooms, and Germans prepare an excellent warming dish called sauerkraut , where brisket and sausages are stewed together with cabbage in white wine and a large piece of meat
Arugula and other salads
There are more than a dozen leafy salads, and they are all good in their own way – bitter arugula, and refreshing watercress, and fragrant lollo-rosso, and crispy iceberg. They are available and full of vitamins and fiber all year round, but they taste best in the spring. Most often, lettuce leaves are eaten, in fact, in salads – you can supplement them with almost anything, from fresh berries to tuna. It is a great habit to substitute fresh lettuce for carbohydrate side dishes, and the ability to mix different types of leaves and change dressings helps to diversify the diet.
You can make your own pesto with fresh arugula, parmesan and pine nuts – all you need is a powerful blender. Head salads are great on the grill; to do this, you need to cut the head of cabbage lengthwise into two halves and pour it over with olive oil – in Italy, this is how red-leaved radicchio is prepared as a side dish for fish.
While lamb is available all year round, fresh lamb is a seasonal product. The season begins in April, and lamb meat is considered the most delicious – in Russia this is considered to be a lamb younger than three months old. Compared to lamb, lamb is significantly softer, it has less fat, a weaker characteristic smell, it cooks faster and better assimilated, while possessing all the advantages of meat: a large amount of protein, trace elements and vitamins.
The taste of lamb is softer than that of lamb, so many chefs prefer to serve it neat – simply by grilling the steaks or roasting a piece of lamb whole. At the same time, there is a sea of different recipes with lamb, from delicious Georgian dishes like chakapuli to Asian options, where lamb is cooked with soy sauce and sesame seeds.
Another spring vegetable that is irreplaceable in European cuisine. Spinach is very early and becomes tasty by the beginning of March, it is good for its ability to adapt to almost any dish, and it is also perhaps one of the healthiest foods in principle. It is rich in vitamins A, E, C and K, carotene, folic acid, iron and other trace elements.
Young spinach leaves turn into a salad perfectly, and tougher ones can be cooked in a pan, slightly simmered with butter. As soon as they decrease in volume, the spinach is ready. It is suitable as a side dish with meat or fish, it can be used to season soup, add to stew, mix with ricotta and turn it into a filling for homemade ravioli, or simply put it in a paste.
Wheat, rye, barley, beans, or soybeans are foods that can be eaten as germinated seeds, more commonly referred to as “sprouts.” It may seem that this is food for an amateur, but such seeds help to diversify the diet and make it healthier due to vitamins and iron. Unfortunately, ready-made germinated seeds are quite expensive and are stored for a very short time – but you can remember the biology lessons and germinate them yourself.
Ready sprouts are added to fresh vegetable salads, smoothies and oatmeal; another option is to sprout soybeans and cook Asian dishes with it. Soy sprouts are needed to make the right udon with chicken, it is good to add them at the very end of frying in vegetable and meat stir-fries or season them with funchose or Thai pad thai – soy gives the noodles a pleasant nutty flavor.
This vegetable is often called “Chinese salad”, but this is not entirely correct: in front of us is cabbage, albeit a strange shape. It is endowed with cabbage properties in full and contains not only many vitamins, but also iron and fiber.
The thin crunchy Chinese cabbage leaves are really are similar to salad dressings, therefore they are used in a similar way. They look best in a salad – even the most ordinary one, with cucumbers and tomatoes. Peking cabbage is most widely used in Asian cuisine: chopped leaves are added to udon with chicken or shrimp, they are seasoned with Thai version of curry, noodles and fried rice, and Koreans turn it into kimchi .