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3 Spring Recipes You Can Make With Vegetables In Your Garden Right Now

The best part about gardening is harvesting! Well, unless you're feeling a little stuck about how to use your abundant spring harvests. We can only eat so many raw radishes, after all. 

Growing your own vegetables is an incredible opportunity to save money and provide yourself and your family with food security, but it’s also a lesson in seasonal eating. When we can buy greenhouse-grown tomatoes in December, we lose touch with natural cycles. 

Gardening will show you exactly what grows in your area at any given time, connecting you to the climate and the seasons in a way that little else does. The following recipes are built around what vegetables are currently harvestable in temperate North America.

One final word on seasonal eating: You may find that you need to supplement your harvests with storebought produce and that’s okay! When you’re just getting started gardening you may have some crop failures or gaps in between succession plantings–it happens to all of us, so don’t stress too much and shop your local farmer’s markets and produce stands when you can. 

Fresh leafy spring greens

Recipes

What follows are just a few simple recipes designed around vegetables that are harvestable in late spring and early summer.

  1. Spring greens salad

    I don’t know about you, but I crave green salads in spring. After a winter of eating mostly carbs and root vegetables, my body needs the vitamins and nutrients that greens bring to the table. 

    There's something special about a fresh salad straight from the garden, and the beauty of salads is that they are so customizable to your personal tastes and what’s seasonally available. Salad ingredients will fluctuate throughout the season, so your body is receiving varied nutrients in a way that won’t exhaust your taste buds. 

    Eating raw vegetables holds different (and potentially more) nutritional benefits than the same vegetables cooked, so try to eat several salads throughout the week to get the most nutrition out of your garden.

    As for ingredients, you can use whatever greens and vegetables you have on hand, but I love Baby Leaf Mix for its colorful blend of tender leaves and Zesty Mesclun Mix to add a touch of spice. Red Salad Bowl is another great lettuce blend, or go for a classic head lettuce like Buttercrunch. For a little extra bite, add Mizuna (Japanese Mustard) or Arugula

    Any variety of radish will work here, but I prefer the All-America Selections Winner Cherry Belle or the early heirloom French Breakfast.

    Serves 1

    Ingredients

    • 1 cup leafy greens
    • 2 radishes, thinly sliced
    • 1 tablespoon diced chives
    • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • ½ lemon, juiced

    Directions

    1. Gently wash the greens and radishes with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. 
    2. Thinly slice the radishes and dice the chives. 
    3. Make a bed of greens in a bowl and layer radishes, chives, and any other vegetables on top.
    4. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.
    5. Sprinkle freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste.
    6. Toss and enjoy!

    You could easily substitute scallions or red onion for the chives–or eliminate them entirely. If you have any thinning to do in the garden, save the extra radish and carrot seedlings to top your salad. Pea shoots are another great addition to a spring salad, and as summer crops like cucumbers and cherry tomatoes become available be sure to add them to the salad! 

  2. Roasted asparagus

    If you’ve been led to believe that steamed asparagus is the only way to enjoy this delicious vegetable, you’re in for a treat! Roasting asparagus removes any hint of bitterness and the right spices bring out the vegetable’s sweet, nutty flavor. 

    Roasted asparagus is an excellent side dish for chicken, pork, and fish. 

    Heirloom asparagus varieties like Mary Washington aren’t harvestable until in their second year, but homegrown asparagus is well worth the wait! Asparagus is low in calories but high in fiber and other nutrients, keeping you fuller for longer.

    Serves 2

    Ingredients

    • 10 asparagus spears, snapped
    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese
    • 1 clove garlic
    • ½ tablespoon lemon juice 
    • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

    Directions

    1. Preheat the oven to 425℉
    2. Prepare asparagus by holding either end of a spear and bending until the stalk snaps in the middle. Discard the woody portion and repeat for the rest of the spears. Rinse the spears with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
    3. Mince garlic. 
    4. Transfer the asparagus spears to a baking dish and drizzle with melted butter, minced garlic, sea salt, black pepper, and any other spices.
    5. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. 
    6. Bake until barely tender, usually between 12 and 15 minutes.
    7. Add lemon juice before serving. 

    To make this recipe dairy-free, substitute olive oil for butter and omit the parmesan cheese. You can use any spices you like to season the asparagus–paprika and cumin add a little kick to this dish, while oregano and rosemary provide an Italian twist. Add fresh parsley or basil if you have any on hand! 

  3. English pea salad (Adapted from Ronni Lundy’s Victuals)

    My favorite spring vegetable would have to be peas. Peas are impressively hardy plants–the seeds can be sown as soon as the ground is workable in spring, well before winter is over. 

    There are three kinds of peas–sugar snap, snow, and English peas. Sugar snap peas are best for snacking–the sweet, plump seedpods are fully edible straight off the vine. Snow peas are harvested before the seeds fully mature, while the seedpod is still edible. Snow peas are a favorite for stir-fries-they’re not as tasty raw as sugar snap peas. 

    English peas, the peas called for in this recipe, do not have an edible seedpod. English peas are the fastest-growing peas, with some varieties harvestable in as little as 50 days. Once the peas have fully matured and filled out the seedpods, English peas are ready to harvest. You’ll want to shell the peas, or remove the seed pod, to prepare them for cooking. Maestro and Cascadia are two varieties of English peas perfect for this recipe.

    My favorite spring recipe is this pea salad from Ronni Lundy’s cookbook, Victuals (Lundy 48). Victuals is a beautiful journey through Appalachian cuisine and the mountains themselves, full of recipes from folks who’ve lived off the land their entire lives. 

    Serves 4

    Ingredients

    • ½ cup heavy cream
    • ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
    • ¼ teaspoon honey
    • Salt
    • 2 cups fresh peas
    • ½ cup thinly sliced small radishes
    • ¼ cup minced green onions
    • Black pepper

    Directions

    1. Prepare the dressing by adding cream, vinegar, honey, and salt to a container and shake for one minute to combine. Allow the dressing to sit at room temperature for one hour to thicken.
    2. In a saucepan, boil 2 cups of water and the peas. Boil uncovered for one to two minutes–until the peas are tender. Drain and rinse the peas with cold water to halt cooking. Pat the peas dry with paper towels.
    3. Mix peas with radishes and green onions in a medium bowl. Add the dressing and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Chill for half an hour before serving.

In summary

These are just a few ideas for ways to use those early spring vegetables in your garden. Let these recipes by guidelines, but use your own imagination and take some creative liberty next time you’re in the kitchen! You might discover a fresh new way to enjoy your abundant spring garden. 

Resources

Lundy, Ronni. Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes. Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2016.
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