We love to visit local farmers’ markets this time of year, as spring produce makes its way from the fields to the vendors’ bins. With April turning into May, we’re obsessing over the season’s fruits and vegetables, incorporating rhubarb into our pork roast, asparagus into our fried rice, and fresh peas into our pasta.
Like spring’s cool, non-humid weather, the season’s harvest is fleeting. Just as quickly as sugar snaps, fiddleheads, and fava beans appear, they’ll be gone. (It’s not all bad: that only means summer will be here, with its tomatoes, corn, and peppers.) And since they’re as tasty as they are healthful, we’re highlighting these three favorites with tips about how to prepare, cook, and eat these green gems.
WHAT. Sugar snaps are hybrids of English shelling peas and thin-skinned snow peas, invented by a scientist in 1979. As a happy result, both the pod and peas are edible, the pod adding crispness and the peas bringing sweetness to every bite.
HOW. Fresh sugar snaps can be eaten completely, shell and all. Some people do remove the ends and the string, which can be a bit, well, chewy, in your final preparation. The sugar snaps in our boxes have already been trimmed and had the tiny strings removed.
MAKE. A quick sauté brings sugar snaps to life without sapping them of their signature crunch. Adding them to a hot pan for no more than 2 or 3 minutes gives the shells a nice sear while leaving the peas inside bright and fresh. Still, we can never resist snacking on a raw pea or two while we’re cooking. In our Chicken with Ramps and Sugar Snap Peas, we pair the sugar snaps with another spring favorite, early-season leeks called ramps.
WHAT. Fiddleheads are prized for their tonic-like qualities, and because they traditionally herald other signs of spring. A member of the fern family, the vegetable is most commonly harvested in the midwest, near the Great Lakes, and in the northeast, where the curled-up tendrils flourish amidst the undergrowth in damp, thick forests.
HOW. Fiddleheads always have to be cooked. Just a few minutes in a sauté pan renders them crisp yet tender, the texture a little bit like a green bean. Another method to use is blanching–a quick bath in salted, boiling water. If you’re feeling adventurous, try breading and deep-frying the fiddleheads for a serious treat.
MAKE. With gently sautéed spring onions and garlic, nutty whole grain pasta, and a handful of protein-rich white beans, fiddleheads become the focal point of this springy, light Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Fiddleheads & Spring Onions.
WHAT. Hailing from North Africa, the Mediterranean, and Southeast Asia, the buttery fava bean is an ancient staple of diets worldwide and an all-time favorite of our chef. To get your fix of food history, though, you’ll have to work for it: favas have to be shelled not once but twice. We like to think of the process as meditative.
HOW. First, shell the beans by unzipping the woody outer pods and removing the beans from within. Cook those in boiling water for just one minute. Rinse them under cold water, then break off the tip of each thin fava shell and pop the bean out from inside, collecting the doubly shelled beans in a bowl.
MAKE. Since it’s time-consuming to stockpile a big serving of favas, be sure to bulk up your fava-based meal with other hearty ingredients. Our favas star in this Spring Minestrone with Fava Beans & Asparagus, which is also packed with vegetables, pasta, and Parmesan cheese. You can also throw favas into pastas and salads; their sweet taste matches really well with sharp, salty feta.