Spring is the time to lighten up and simplify your meals using fresh, vibrant new vegetables. More local produce is becoming increasingly available at farmers’ markets, which makes cooking a little more fun and creative in my opinion. Most spring vegetables have healing and cleansing properties, and because I love to know the specific benefits of eating different kinds of produce, I compiled this spring produce guide. Read on to learn about these rejuvenating health benefits and get my recipe for Spring Vegetable Penne. To get my complete Seasonal Produce Guide delivered to your inbox, sign up here.
Arugula: Arugula is a member of the cabbage family and is rich in phytonutrients with strong anticancer properties. Arugula is higher in calcium, magnesium, folate, and vitamin E than most salad greens. It is also rich in vitamins A, K, chlorophyll, folate and fiber. Arugula has a peppery flavor. Fresh arugula is firm and dark green and eating it raw will provide the most health benefits.
Asparagus: Asparagus is abundant in vitamin K, and important nutrient for blood clotting, bone health, heart health, and cancer prevention. It is also a rich source of glutathione, a detoxifying compound that helps the liver break down carcinogens and free radicals. Asparagus can lose much of its flavor and nutritional value within a few days, so it is best to eat it the day you get it. Steaming asparagus increases its antioxidant value by about 30%.
Peas: Peas contain a variety of vitamins and minerals including vitamins C, K, and several B vitamins, plus manganese, phosphorus, and protein. One way to get more nutrition from peas is to buy fresh sugar snap peas or snow peas rather than frozen green peas. The pods have more fiber and antioxidants than the peas themselves.
Radishes: This spicy root is a great detoxifier. Radishes break down and eliminate toxic build up in the stomach and liver, and cancer-causing free radicals in the body. They have a high water content to help keep your body hydrated. Radishes contain vitamins C, B and K and essential minerals that include potassium, manganese, magnesium, and calcium.
Spring Onions/Scallions: Green onions are a member of the allium family and show promise in reducing the risk of cancer. They are natural antihistamines, and have antibacterial and antifungal properties. Scallions have an incredible 140 times more phytonutrients than common white onions, and the dark green parts are more concentrated in these compounds than the bulbs. They are a good source of vitamins A and C.
Pasta is somewhat of a treat at my house. I used to eat it ALL the time, but have cut way back in the last few years. I always choose gluten free pasta now, and make sure it’s loaded with lots of veggies. This pasta recipe incorporates some of my springtime favorites, and is super simple (and quick) to make. If you have’t tried fennel before, it has a slight anise flavor, may be eaten raw, and pairs well with fish, apples, lemon, and cheese. The fragrant fronds can be used for garnish.
- 2 cups penne pasta (I always use gluten free)
- 1/2 cup reserved pasta water (for a richer version, use 1/4 cup cream and 1/4 cup water)
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large fennel bulb, fronds removed
- 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
- 1 1/2 cups snap peas, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 tsp. dijon mustard
- Zest and juice of 1 small lemon
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 1/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
- Handful chopped fresh herbs (thyme, tarragon, or chives)
- Parmesan, for garnish (optional)
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a big pinch of salt and pasta, cooking until pasta is al dente. Drain and save 1/2 cup pasta water.
- Meanwhile, cut the fennel in half lengthwise. Remove the tough core, and cut fennel into 1/4-inch strips. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add fennel, stir once, and let cook for 5 minutes, undisturbed.
- Turn heat down to medium and add asparagus, garlic, tarragon, and a big pinch of salt. Add 1/2 cup reserved pasta water (or cream and water, if using). Cover and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add snap peas, cover and cook 2 minutes more.
- Stir in dijon, lemon zest and juice, butter, walnuts and fresh herbs. Add cooked pasta to the frying pan and toss to coat. Plate pasta and garnish with parmesan and a few fennel fronds. Serve immediately.