The start of spring is the perfect opportunity to try out one of our 2014 Food Trends, the farm to table movement. Restaurants and chefs who follow the farm to table school of cooking place a renewed emphasis on seasonal ingredients and the simplicity of eating fresh-grown food. Many restaurants work with local farmers, while others go so far as to have their own small farms or vegetable gardens.
If you’re thinking of heading out for some springtime dining, here are a few of the seasonal items you might expect to see on the menu.
Greens – There’s a reason green is considered a spring color, and it’s not just because of budding flowers. Greens are plentiful during the spring months, both due to proper harvest timing and our natural desire to eat lighter fare as the weather warms up. Arugula, spinach and chard are at their finest in the cooler spring and fall months as their leaves turn bitter in hot weather (added bonus, some of these qualify as superfoods!) Look for spinach salads, “white” pizza with arugula, or sautéed chard with spring onions for a side dish.
Asparagus – If you feel like asparagus is everywhere on menus in the spring months, you’re not imagining it. Asparagus is harvested March through June in many areas and is a true spring vegetable. These tasty green stalks are very versatile – you’ll find them in dishes from salads and pastas, to pizza toppings, in cream of asparagus soup, or roasted and sprinkled with lemon juice or garlic. This is a spring veggie you don’t want to miss and should be easy to find!
Peas and Carrots – Though both these side-dish favorites can be found year round, they are in special form during the spring months. Spring is the time you’ll find true baby carrots – not the kind sold in grocery stores. And peas of all kinds, from snap peas to snow peas, come into season and stay through the summer. Look for peas and carrots in “spring vegetable” mixes, risottos and stir-fries.
Strawberries – Strawberries are available year-round in most places, but April through June is when they are truly at their peak. You’ll often find the sweet, juicy berries in spinach salads with goat cheese and slivered almonds, but they pop up all over menus this time of year. Try a glass of fresh strawberry lemonade on a warm day, or treat yourself to strawberry shortcake for dessert. You can also find strawberries paired with another seasonal spring favorite, rhubarb, in an American favorite, strawberry rhubarb pie.
Artichokes – If the only time you enjoy artichokes is buried in spinach artichoke dip, you’re missing out on this seasonal superfood. Artichokes have a second crop in the fall, but their primary harvest happens in the spring months. Though odd looking, artichokes are both delicious and nutritious – offering a decent dose of fiber, magnesium and vitamins B, C and K. You’re more likely to find artichoke hearts in restaurants than to get a full head with all the leaves, but don’t worry, that’s the best part! Look for artichoke hearts in Mediterranean salads, pasta primavera, Panini’s and as a pizza topping.
Lamb – If you’re more of a carnivorous diner, lamb is a good bet for your spring restaurant visits. Try lamb chops paired with mint, which thrives in the spring, or as a burger with a creamy cheese like brie. Lamb is commonly found in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food, so visiting a restaurant that specializes in those cuisines is a good place to locate this popular spring fare. We recommend ordering a gyro or kofta kabob covered in a light yogurt sauce.
Do you have spring dish fever yet? Start your search for a farm to table restaurant and order up one of these springy ingredients today!