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The Flavors Of Spring

When you think of spring ingredients, what comes to mind? Probably not fiddlehead ferns or ramps.

Yet they are just two of the fresh seasonal ingredients that can add a new level of interest to any meal. Here’s the lowdown on four flavorful spring foods:

Fiddlehead ferns
These bright green vegetables, which have curled tips that resemble the top of a fiddle, are often found across the country in the spring. The ostrich fern is the species most widely harvested in Canada and the U.S. It appears in April in the South and in May in the Northeast.

These vegetables taste like asparagus, artichokes and green beans. If eaten raw, they can be chewy and bitter, so you’ll want to cook them for at least five minutes. They can be steamed, simmered or sautéed and taste especially good when they’re sautéed with garlic and herbs. Consider topping them with butter, cream, cheese sauce or even soy sauce or sesame seeds.

You can usually find fiddlehead ferns at your local farmers’ market or supermarket. Keep in mind, they don’t last long. You can refrigerate them for two days, but be sure to wrap them in plastic. Also, scrape off the fuzzy brown scales and trim the ends before cooking them.

Ramps
These are wild leeks that grow in the forests of eastern North America. They’re often the first edible plants to appear in the spring. They have a unique garlicky flavor and are great substitutes for leeks, scallions or onions. You can use them to add interest to tarts, grits or grilled zucchini.

Artichokes
These might just be the quintessential spring vegetable. Did you know they’re actually the edible bud of a thistle flower? They can be steamed, and they taste great when served with lemon or butter. Consider chopping them and adding them to your pasta—or frying or marinating them. Baby artichokes can also be used in many recipes; they’re quicker to prepare. Try them simmered, sautéed or raw in salads. Large artichokes work well for stuffing; medium ones are perfect for salad; and small ones are great for frying.

Okra
This Southern favorite is a plant with green pods. It can be sliced and sautéed with other vegetables, such as corn and tomatoes, and it can be added to rice or deep fried and served with any meal. Look for okra that’s bright green, firm and covered with white fuzz. Wash it in cold water before use.

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