There’s something magical about the first local greens of the season. What I love most is the juxtaposition of their delicate, tender form and intensely strong flavor. Indulging in these early spring treats makes me feel more alive after a long winter. They reinvigorate my taste buds and set the stage for the abundance of local produce that’s just around the corner.Here’s a short list of my favorites.
This diverse family of greens comes in a variety of shapes, textures, and degrees of spicy. Because mustard does extremely well in cool weather, it is usually one of the first local bunched greens we see in the produce department. Later season mustard greens are generally cooked before eating, but early spring mustards are tender enough to be eaten raw in salads.
Talk about spicy! Watercress has an intense, peppery flavor that’s not for the faint of heart. This plant is usually harvested in the wild, where it’s found growing around springs. I like to add watercress to sandwiches for some extra zing. It’s also really good in soup, and of course in salads. Watercress is exceptionally high in vitamins A and C.
Yes, you can eat the dandelions out of your front yard, but the cultivated varieties are less bitter and more palatable for most people. Even the “tame” varieties have some bitterness and are best mixed with milder greens such as lettuce or spinach. It’s well worth including dandelion in your spring salad—of all the greens they top the charts for nutrition, offering an amazingly high dose of many vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and even protein.
These tender young shoots are one of the most underappreciated of the spring greens. They come from the same plant that will bear pea pods later in the season. Pea shoots have a deliciously sweet, fresh pea flavor. They’re a very versatile ingredient—tender enough to be served raw on sandwiches or in salads, they’re also good lightly sauteed or added as a garnish to soups. When they’re in season, I find myself finding an excuse to add them to almost every meal.
Also called “rocket,” arugula has a pungent, spicy flavor that adds character to any dish. Arugula makes an excellent pesto. It’s also great as a pizza topping, or added to any salad or pasta dish. Need another reason to eat arugula? Since Roman times, it’s been known as a powerful aphrodisiac!