IMG_1602As Spring peaks, produce choices abound! Fruits and veggies can (and should) be incorporated in everything from appetizers, to pasta dishes, seafood preparations, to tasty twists on salads, and desserts.

While many fruits and vegetables are available year round, fresh in season means you can buy locally, and enjoy ingredients at their peak of flavor. Here’s what’s fresh in season this Spring, and what you can do with pretty produce to brighten and lighten your menus!

IMG_9986Artichokes: In peak season Mar – May

Look for firm, heavy, artichokes that are green with leaves tightly closed. Avoid chokes that have browned or split leaves. Fresh artichokes can be refrigerated in a plastic bag for up to five days. When ready to cook, cut stems completely off, so artichoke can sit up without tilting over. Cut prickly tips off with scissors.

Arugula: In peak season April – June

Arugula’s peppery flavor comes from plants grown rapidly in cool climates and harvested young. Arugula should be bright green and not wilted. Wrap arugula tightly in a plastic bag and refrigerate for no more than two days.

AsparagusAsparagus: In peak season Feb – Jun

Slightly acidic and fibrous, the best asparagus has tightly closed tips, and no flowering. Thickness is a matter of taste. Asparagus is ideally prepared the same day it’s purchased. Prolong freshness in the refrigerator by wrapping the bottoms of the stalks in a damp paper towel and placing them in a paper bag. Store in a crisper, or stand the bundled stalks in a bowl with about an inch of water.

Berries: In peak season May- Aug

Berries are full of antioxidants, and easy to eat. No pits or peeling required. They also add colorful beauty to any dish. The best berries are firm. Always check the container bottom for stains or mold before you buy. Store in the refrigerator in the original container up to five days. When you’re ready to use them, rinse berries under cold water; drain and pat dry.

Washed potatoesNew Potatoes: In peak season Mar-Jul

New potatoes are picked before their sugars have converted to starch, so they’re crisp and waxy and high in moisture. They also have thin skins, making them great for cooking and eating unpeeled. New potatoes should be firm, smooth, and free of cracks or soft brown spots. Choose potatoes of similar size so they cook evenly. Potatoes should not be refrigerated. Keep them in a cool, dark place and use within a week or so of buying.

IMG_9946Spinach: In peak season April – Jun

Spinach is rich in Vitamins A, C, K, folate, and antioxidants. Baby spinach is great for salads. Select spinach with dark leaves and a fresh smell. Refrigerate spinach for up to 3 days wrapped in slightly damp paper towels in a plastic bag. Before using, swish in a bowl of cold water until no grit is present. Dry in a salad spinner.

Zucchini: In peak season May-Jul

Look for zucchini that’s firm and heavy for its size. Skin should be brightly colored and blemish-free. Smaller squash are tenderer than large ones and have thinner skins. Look for squash that are less than eight inches long. Refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to four days. Don’t wash until ready to use.