One day, my daughter hit me with a bombshell. No, she wasn’t dating nor was she failing in school. Instead, she told me that she decided to become a vegetarian, on ethical grounds. “Technically,” she told me, “I’m a pescatarian. I still eat fish.” I was stunned, both because it was such a mature decision for my daughter to make and because the keystone to any meal I know how to prepare is plenty of pork, beef, or chicken, not legumes or spring vegetables.
So, I had to learn what can provide adequate protein and—the trickiest part—how to make sure they taste good. Over the past year, I’ve learned that the most important part of ensuring that vegetable dishes are tasty is that the vegetables themselves are in season. For example, we
Spring is the beginning of the best time for fruits and veggies, which lasts through summer and into fall. Fruit like apricots, kiwi, and strawberries, are harvested throughout winter in temperate areas, so they are your best bets. Smaller berries and citrus fruit—other than Grapefruit—tend to be at their best starting in late spring and early summer.
One of the best spring vegetables for protein is fava beans. Not only do you have to get over the association this legume has with Hannibal Lecter, but they are also very involved to prepare and serve. You have to peel them, blanch them, and then peel through the second shell. Although, some recipes call for unpeeled fava beans, I believe the taste better wholly shelled.
Lettuce is also best in the spring and early summer, along with other leafy greens such as spinach, arugula, and stinging nettles. For the nettles, you have to soak them in water to denature the stinging defense mechanism and they should be meticulously washed. Yet, they are one of the most nutritious and flavorful green herbs you can find.
Also, I plant to introduce some new spring vegetables to my daughter’s diet for the first time. Turnips, radishes, and rhubarb—often called the first “fruit” of spring, although it’s technically a stalk, like celery—are best at this time of year and all are new flavors for my daughter’s pescatarian palate.
Still, the best part of spring is that it often sees the return of local, outdoor farmer’s markets. These are excellent places to track down the best in-season vegetables and sometimes surprisingly delicious out-of-season vegetables. At my own local farmer’s market, one couple has the best hothouse tomatoes on the planet, regardless of the season. Are there any other spring veggies that I didn’t mention that are a big part of your family diet?