Jewels of Spring
Fresh peas, favas, ramps, artichokes, and asparagus—those eminently edible emblems of spring—offer a bounty of seasonal pleasure.
After the long, dark days of winter, the first signs of spring—leaves sprouting on once-bare trees, flowers showing vibrant colors, gardens bearing the first crop of the season—whet our appetites for a bounty of delectable ingredients now coming to market: fresh spring peas, asparagus, and favas; the noble artichoke; and the sweet but short-lived ramp. These simple foods are some of our favorites, adaptable to a variety of dishes that speak eloquently—and most deliciously—of spring.
PEAS—Bright green, with a slight sweetness and an earthy flavor, these little gems are far removed from those ubiquitous peas of the canned and frozen varieties, as Colman Andrews points out in Peas Please. One read and you’ll appreciate peas in a whole new light.
ASPARAGUS—It’s a vegetable so tasty that an entire community in western Massachusetts has committed itself to growing the world’s best, as David Nussbaum discovered while researching Hadley Grass.
FAVAS–Earthy, faintly acidic, and utterly delicious—fresh young favas are a savory symbol of spring. From the Mediterranean to China, California to the Middle East, these unsung legumes are causing a serious case of Fava Fever the world over.
ARTICHOKES—Like favas, these tough-yet-tender vegetables take a bit of preparation, but offer a delectable reward. They are particularly prized in the Middle East, as author Clifford A. Wright found out while writing Hearts of Syria.
RAMPS–Closer to home, the humble ramp—a delightful little bulb whose flavor calls to mind garlic, leeks, and dandelion greens—is celebrated every spring in the small, close-knit communities of the Appalachian Mountains. Sally Schneider brings us the tale—and the good, down-home recipes—of one of these in April in Helvetia.