by Megan Minnick, Purchasing Director
May is a time of fleeting and unpredictable availability for our local farmers. Normally, I avoid writing about the local produce of May because I simply can’t promise you when things will be available or for how long. All depends on the weather—a cool, wet spell can delay availability for weeks, whereas a few warmer-than-average days can speed things up so that an entire crops’ season is finished in the blink of an eye. Some vegetables however, are just too good not to be written about. Below I’ve listed my favorite early spring veggies. I can’t promise you exactly when they’ll grace our shelves, but chances are it will be sometime this month!
One of the first items we see every spring from Harmony Valley Farm in Viroqua are these generous bunches of fresh chives. Chives are a perennial herb, and as soon as the ground thaws, they begin to proliferate.
Spring chives are extremely tender, with a pungent fresh flavor that is sure to beat away the last of your winter blues. An extremely versatile herb, chives can be chopped and added as a fresh garnish to almost any savory dish.
When you think about garlic, you probably think of heads of garlic with its white papery skin. In actuality, garlic has many edible forms and can be enjoyed locally almost year-round. Farmers typically plant garlic in the late fall. In the early spring, the garlic start growing. Green garlic is young garlic with tender leaves that are harvested before the bulb is fully formed. Though they toughen with time, in the early spring the green garlic is tender enough to be eaten as you might eat a green onion—raw as a garnish, or cooked into a stir fry, soup, or other dish.
Because spring comes earlier in places like Mexico and California, we typically start selling this “springtime” crop in late February. Though asparagus from far afield can be delicious and satisfying, it doesn’t hold a candle to local asparagus, which is typically harvested and delivered to us in the same day. Local asparagus is typically more tender, juicy, and flavorful than anything you’ll find for the rest of the year. As soon as the hot weather hits, it’s gone—so eat it while you can!
Another highly anticipated wild Wisconsin food is the morel mushroom. These beautiful mushrooms have an exquisite and delicate earthy, nutty flavor that’s unlike any other mushroom. One caution with morels is to cook them thoughtfully. If you mix them with other intensely flavored ingredients, their subtle flavors can easily be lost, which would be a real shame.
It’s true, we carry spinach all year, but one can hardly classify local spring spinach as the same vegetable that comes out of California through the winter months. Cool springtime temperatures intensify the sugars making the spinach super sweet, and oh so flavorful!
A type of wild baby leek, ramps grow wild in the forests of North America. In many places they are endangered by over-harvesting; however, the farmers at Harmony Valley Farm carefully manage their certified organic ramp stands so that they will continue to provide a delicious harvest for as long as people want to continue eating them.
Ramps have an intense spicy, onion/garlic flavor. They make an extremely flavorful fresh pesto, or your can mellow their flavor a bit with cooking.