Color & Abundance: A Guide to Spring Farmers Markets

Harvested red and white radishes in foreground with leafy greens in the background

Mid-spring is a dizzying, dazzling time of the year, when it feels like all of the world is exploding with colors. After months of hibernation vibes, we are beyond ready for the sensory overload of the season.

There is no place better to experience “peak spring” than your local farmers market. During this time of abundance, you’ll find growers’ tables piled high with fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Wandering from stall to stall is a great way to meet your neighbors (or maybe go on a low-key first date?), learn more about the crops grown in your region, and get inspired for ways to elevate your mealtimes in the coming week.

Pack up a few reusable tote bags, grab a thermos of iced coffee, and hit up your farmers market this weekend! Here’s what to look for while you’re there:

Radishes

One of the first crops of spring, radishes bring color and peppery crunch to all sorts of dishes. The conventional radishes you usually see in the supermarket are the Cherry Belle variety, a crimson red, round radish with green tops. But, at the farmers market, you might come across more unique varieties, like:

  • French Breakfast Radishes: Long and cylindrical, with fuschia tops and white tips.
  • Watermelon Radishes: Dusty green on the outside and a brilliant, shocking pink on the inside. Absolutely gorgeous in salads or on top of avocado toast.
  • Easter Egg Radishes: Each bunch contains a sweet palette of pastel colors, including pink, purple, and white.

Try them thinly sliced in salads or atop tacos and chili. Or make a classic French snack: slather a piece of baguette with cultured butter and add a few slices of radish and a sprinkle of Maldon salt. You can also roast radishes (they are, after all, a root vegetable), which mellows their flavor and develops a soft, yielding texture.

Leafy Greens

Lettuces tend to grow well in cool, wet conditions, and spring is their time to shine. You can usually find romaine and spinach at the farmers market; their flavor will be so much fresher than the supermarket stuff. Make a crunchy Caesar salad with the lettuce, and a nutrient-packed pesto with the spinach!

There are other leafy greens to explore, as well:

  • Mizuna: Also called Japanese mustard greens, these peppery greens are native to East Asia but are grown all over the world. They are delicious raw or mixed into stir fries. 
  • Watercress: Piquant and crunchy, watercress is versatile and delicious. Add it to simple salads, stir into soups, or even toss it in a smoothie for a dose of green! 
  • Dandelion greens: This bitter green is more nutrient-dense than kale! Try them sauteed with garlic, baked into a frittata, or wilted alongside a grilled steak or roasted salmon.

Asparagus

The young shoots of asparagus are a prized sign of spring. Look for small, tight stalks for the most mellow grassy flavor, and don’t forget to snap off the woody bottoms before cooking (but save those woody bottoms to use in soup or freeze for later)! In some markets, you might come across purple or white asparagus, which are similar in flavor to classic green asparagus, but bring major color drama to the plate.

There are so many ways to enjoy this elegant veg: grilled and tossed with spicy harissa as a side dish; tossed with shrimp in a zesty lemon-garlic pasta dish; roasted and topped with shaved Parmesan and lemon … we could go on and on.

Apricots 

These cute, fuzzy stone fruits feature the most delicate, honeyed sweetness with a hint of tartness.

Slice them over yogurt at breakfast; or for a truly effortless dessert, try roasting them with a drizzle of honey, and spoon them over ice cream. Or, toss a few apricots in grain salads, serve some alongside grilled halloumi, or make a quick apricot jam as a glaze for chicken or pork.

To keep the plant-powered meal planning going, check out ZENB’s catalog of over 150 recipes, where you can find plenty of ways to cook up your farmers market haul. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest for even more fresh-picked ideas and inspiration!


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