How To: Pick & Store Spring Produce
My grandfather (aka PopPop) thoroughly enjoys teasing his 10 grandkids, including me. Since I’m the oldest and the only college graduate at this point, he seems to enjoy finding out how much I learned “at that fancy college” I went to. Asking me questions about stuff I never learned about…like ever. For example, recently he asked “how do you really know Spring has arrived?” I responded with what I thought was a very intelligent answer – the crocuses start to bloom. Nope, not the right answer. Well… how about because Al Roker said so on the Today Show? “No, no no. You’re not that bright, huh? Guess you didn’t learn much at that college.”
Ha, guess not PopPop. Well according to him, Spring has officially arrived when you see geese starting to pair off by themselves – getting ready for the mating season. Um, really? Geese? Never in my life would have thought of that one. But this year…guess what I’ve been seeing? Geese couples! Walking around alone together as if they were out on a date. I suppose they’re getting their ducky-romance on. And since these romantic geese are the “official” signal of the new season, I’m happy to announce Spring has officially arrived here in Virginia! Woo-hoo!
Besides geese, I know Spring is here when I see artichokes, asparagus and peas at the farmer’s market! I guess that would have been a better response than “because Al Roker said so on the news.” Oh well, I’ll know better next year! But regardless of mating geese or spring crocuses, the new season is a welcome change from what seemed like an eternity of winter squash and kale! So to prepare for the huge influx of fresh produce to my refrigerator (and hopefully yours), I thought I’d review some popular Spring-time fruits and veggies. Then I’ll share some tips on how to pick out the best selections and store them at home! Tips On Picking and Storing Spring Produce:
- Artichokes – artichokes are “ripe” when they are green, their leaves are tight and they feel heavy for their size. If you rub the leaves together they should make a squeak-like sound which indicates freshness. Try to use artichokes as soon as possible, but can remain in your refrigerator for about 2 days.
- Asparagus – there’s a lot of back and forth about the “perfect” asparagus. But to my knowledge, look for stems that are tight and bright green. If they are weepy or floppy, they’re old. As for the size, either thick or thin spears are good to eat if they are fresh. You’ll just have to adjust the cooking time. Store asparagus in a cup of water coming up about 2″ on the stem in you refrigerator for up to 2 days.
- Fresh Peas – You can find hulled or unhulled fresh Spring peas. If you buy the whole pod, look for ones that are vibrant green color, shiny and firm to the touch. While peas may last long in the refrigerator, they become very starchy and lose flavor the longer they sit. So try to use them as soon as possible or within 2 days. Also, try blanching them and freezing them for up to 4 months.
- Morel Mushrooms – these wild mushrooms remind me somewhat of a pine tree in their shape and texture. They’re rare and can be expensive but are worth it. Look for morels that are unblemished and are somewhat firm in texture. Store them in a paper bag and make sure there is no moisture on them or in the bag. You can store them in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days. Note: never wash mushrooms until right before cooking with them.
- Spring Onions – these onions sort of resemble really big, fat scallions. Unlike regular red or yellow onions, Spring onions should be kept in the refrigerator and used within a week a the most. Look for onions with bright white, unblemished bulbs and dark green stems.
- Strawberries – debatable as either a late Spring or early Summer fruit, strawberries are starting to make an appearance at markets. Choose bright red berries, free of blemishes or soft spots. Also, there should be no green, white or yellow spots on them – they do not continue to ripen once they’ve been picked. Ideally, these delicate berries should be consumed within 1-2 days of purchase.
- Rhubarb – unlike many fruits and veggies, the color of rhubarb stalks does not indicate ripeness or freshness (unless it’s brown and bruised). Stalks can be pink, to red or even tinged with green. Concentrate on stalks that are firm like celery. Avoid super thick stalks as these can be very fibrous and tough. Store in the refrigerator for about 1 week wrapped in plastic wrap or in a plastic bag.
You tell me! What’s your favorite season? What Spring produce are you most excited for? Do you think strawberries are a Spring or Summer fruit?